Kudos to the poultry industry (Editorial)

(Aug. 2, 2016) In the Age of the Millennials, food is suspect.
How is it grown or produced? What goes on it in the garden? What is fed to the chickens, beef cattle or the pigs? What has been done to the corn kernel or the soybean seed before it goes into the ground?
So persistent have been these questions from an enormous segment of the consuming public that the food and agricultural industries have been paying attention, in some cases for many years, developing answers to those consumer concerns.
Consider the poultry industry, the economic backbone of the Delmarva Peninsula.
In 1996, the federal government established a study committee, which a year later issued a report entitled “Judicious Use of Antimicrobials for Poultry Veterinarians.”
A year later, in response to increasing concerns from its customers, Perdue began phasing out the use of growth promotions.
At about the same time, Chipotle began serving what it called “natural chicken,” and, in 2005, Panera added “no antibiotics” chicken to its menu.
The movement — and it was a movement — began to pickup speed.
In 2007, for example, Perdue stopped all use of antibiotics, put some flocks on an all-vegetable diet, introduced a new brand and label, “Harvestland: No Antibiotics Ever,” a brand that was verified by the USDA in 2009.
Then in 2011, Perdue Farms acquired Coleman Foods, a natural foods and organic chicken company in North Carolina.
Later in 2015, Perdue would acquire Niman Ranch, an organic all-meat company in the Far West.
By 2012, Perdue had converted all of its flock to an all-vegetable diet, with no animal byproducts in the feed and the pace picked up.
States began introducing antibiotic use bills. Chic-fil-A announced a move to no-antibiotic chicken.
Tyson announced that it no longer was using antibiotics in its hatcheries.
McDonald’s says it plans to source all of its chicken raised without human antibiotics.
Then Costco, Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson joined the movement.
In 2014 and 2015, Perdue’s Simply Smart No Antibiotics Ever frozen product line and its Perfect Portion offerings spread throughout the supermarket poultry displays.
Consumers are applauding, as well they should.
The switch to organic, non-antibiotic, free-range, and animal care production techniques and systems throughout agriculture is evidence that industry is listening and responding.
And if an increased cost is involved — which may be the case — we feel sure that all those millennials out there will be willing to pay it.