It’s gratifying when a company is publicly recognized for standing on principle. I was impressed to see that FoodDive.com, a media outlet providing news and analysis for food industry professionals, recognized Sanderson Farms as its 2017 Food Company of the Year.
Sanderson, one of the leading chicken producers in the U.S., joins Walmart, Amazon/Whole Foods, Hy-Vee and other food system leaders on Food Dive’s list of year-end honorees. Why? In recognition of Sanderson’s principled stance on the issue of antibiotics used in poultry production.
Sanderson Farms believes using antibiotics when medically necessary improves food safety and environmental sustainability. But the main reason the company says it remains committed to responsible antibiotic use is the benefit to animal welfare.
“We believe we have a moral responsibility to protect the welfare of our animals, and as veterinarians, we have taken an oath to relieve the suffering of animals, particularly those under our supervision. It’s simply the humane thing to do,” said Dr. Phil Stayer, Veterinarian, Sanderson Farms.
Sanderson produced a series of videos highlighting the company’s no-nonsense approach to raising chickens – taking a humorous approach to questioning the growing list of “free from” label claims that are gaining popularity with some consumers.
Of course, antibiotic resistance is a serious issue and we all recognize that antibiotics must be used wisely. That’s a separate issue from the labeling confusion addressed in the videos, which I also addressed in a previous blog: “Confused by meat labels? Here’s what you need to know.”
Sanderson also engages directly with those interested in food production. The company hosted a dozen or so food bloggers for a tour, during which the bloggers were able to see firsthand the process of raising chickens, meet the farmers and veterinarians who care for them, and ask any questions that came to mind.
Blogger Sarah Keil later wrote, “I was a little scared I’d come away from this trip wanting to be a vegetarian, but it’s actually been the opposite. Learning about the process makes me appreciate it more… From beginning to end of these chickens’ lives, they are well cared for and protected… The chickens only receive antibiotics if they are sick, and even then, there is a waiting period between their last dose and their processing to ensure that all traces of medication are gone.”
The public is right to expect farmers to operate responsibly in delivering food that is safe, healthy and affordable. And consumers have every right to ask questions about how their food is produced. I applaud Sanderson Farms for its work to engage and answer questions.
I am impressed by the growing number of farms and food companies working to increase transparency and understanding of agriculture and our food system. In doing so, they are increasing consumer trust and confidence. I hope others will follow their lead.
I welcome your thoughts and questions. Please feel free to send me an email at AskDrDorman@pahc.com or call me at 844-288-3623. You can also browse our Resource Library to learn more about this important topic.