Splitting feathers over a label

Janet Babin Nov 20, 2007


Scott Jagow: If you’d rather get your antibiotics by taking a pill, instead of, oh, I don’t know, eating chicken, you might want to avoid Tyson Foods. The government says Tyson can’t use the “raised without antibiotics label” anymore. Marketplace’s Janet Babin reports from North Carolina Public Radio.

Janet Babin: Maybe you’ve seen the Tyson Foods ads touting chickens raised without antibiotics. The company’s spent millions advertising the birds, and initially, the USDA OK’d the label.

But a few weeks ago, the government decided the Tyson chickens actually do have antibiotics in them. Apparently, the agency overlooked a suspect feed additive. But Tyson says the additive’s not an antibiotic.

Food industry consultant Mike Schall says the government’s going overboard:

Mike Schall: It’s almost like splitting feathers.

Tyson was the first major poultry company to offer antibiotic-free chickens back in May, something Schall says consumers are looking for.

Schall: It’s very important to those consumers that the product be pure and not have additives. But my sense is the consumers would rather be safe than ill.

Tyson says it will modify the label to state that the chickens contain no ingredients that could create antibiotic resistance in humans.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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