Cooks Venture, a pasture-raised chicken company that sells heritage birds raised by producers using regenerative farming practices, is rolling out a meatier “No Antibiotics Ever” label.
The Decatur-based company said it worked with Food In-Depth, a company that tests pork, beef and poultry for antibiotics and holds companies accountable for their brand label claims. , to provide more transparency to consumers in the market.
Over the past two years, Cooks said Food In-Depth has provided rigorous and regular on-site testing to ensure its labels are verified and accurate. In this regard, it claims to be the first and only poultry production company to test every flock for antibiotics.
The tags, which should be rolled out immediately, are green with a QR link that offers information about the drug tests involved, the testing methodology used and other data.
The overuse of antibiotics and drugs in food animals and its implications for public health has been a concern since the turn of the century. It accelerates antimicrobial resistance in humans, which can lead to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays and increased mortality, according to the World Health Organization. After feeling pressure from customers and consumers, producers like Tyson Foods and Perdue took action to address concerns and, in 2017, began marketing their products with “No Antibiotics Ever” labels.
The removal of antibiotics has raised concerns in the poultry market over animal welfare issues related to increased mortality and loss of production, with farmers growing weary of its negative effect on wages.
A study published Thursday in Science magazine found that these types of U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved beef cattle market tags do not require antibiotic testing to validate them, prompting parties throughout supply chain to cheat or limit scrutiny. It is estimated that approximately 70% of antibiotics used in the United States are administered to animals raised for food.
Matthew Wadiak, CEO and founder of Cooks Venture, said in a written statement that his partnership with Food In-Depth offers third-party verification so customers can trust his claims.
“We never use antibiotics and our chickens are 100% [not genetically modified]”Wadiak said.
According to the Science magazine study, of the more than 9 billion animals slaughtered each year in the United States for their meat, the USDA tests less than 7,000 for antibiotics.
The National Chicken Council, an industry advocate, is a proponent of antibiotics in chickens only to treat and prevent disease, not to promote growth.
Of the antibiotics used in the treatment of chickens, ionophores are among the most common and are not used in human medicine, the council said. Federal rules require all antibiotics used in food production to clean animal systems before they can leave the farm.