Raised without Antibiotics vs. antibiotic-free. Is there a difference?

On December 9th, the FDA announced (http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm236143.htm) that the U.S. meat, poultry and dairy producers used almost 29 million, yes million, pounds of antibiotics on their farm animals in 2009, up significantly from just a decade ago.  As you can imagine, public health organizations are troubled by these practices, especially ‘sub-therapeutic’ antibiotics — a low dose of antibiotics that is mixed into the feed of healthy farm animals to promote faster growth.  Many scientists are concerned these practices may be linked to the new antibiotic-resistant ’superbugs’, such as MRSA and E. coli, because the more we’re exposed to antibiotics the less effective they are when we need them.

So are we.

All Bell & Evans chickens are raised without antibiotics. Raised naturally in a low-stress environment, our Bell & Evans chickens start out healthier, so we have no need to pump our birds full of antibiotics throughout their lives. There are no antibiotics in their feed, their water, or even in the egg… ever.

Some producers say their chickens are antibiotic-free, but don’t be fooled.  It only means the chickens were antibiotic-free when they’re sold. All chickens must be antibiotic-free to be sold for human consumption.  It doesn’t mean they weren’t given antibiotics sometime in their life cycle. Some producers even try to get around the issue by injecting the egg before the chick hatches. Antibiotics are antibiotics no matter when they’re administered.

So to answer the question, yes, there is a big difference in chickens that are raised without antibiotics vs. those that are ‘antibiotic-free’. You can trust in Bell & Evans chicken, raised without antibiotics, to feed your family.

This is my last entry for the year. I wish you and your family all the best for the holidays and a healthy, happy new year. Please join me again in 2011 for more reflections on raising the excellent chicken