Cargill eliminates 20 percent of shared-class antibiotics

1.2 million cattle are involved in move

Cargill is eliminating 20 percent of shared-class antibiotics, those deemed important for human medicine and farm animals, from its four feed yards in Texas, Kansas and Colorado, and four additional feed yards operated by Friona Industries, which is a strategic business partner that supplies the company with cattle. The total number of cattle involved annually is approximately 1.2 million.

This move comes after Cargill evaluated existing third-party research and research previously conducted by the company regarding reduced antibiotic use, and evaluated customer and consumer input. For the beef cattle covered by this announcement, Cargill does not use any antibiotics for growth promotion that are medically important for human health.  

“Our decision to eliminate 20 percent of the antibiotics used in our beef cattle, which are also used for human health, took into consideration customer and consumer desires to help ensure the long-term medical effectiveness of antibiotics for both people and animals,” stated John Keating, president of Cargill’s Wichita-based beef business. “We need to balance those desires with our commitment to ensure the health of animals raised for food, which contributes to the production of safer food.”

Exploring alternatives 

Implementation of this decision builds upon Cargill’s 2014 decision to eliminate growth promoting antibiotics from its U.S. turkey business, which was completed in time for the 2015 holiday turkey season and underscores the company’s stated commitment to reduce the use of human antibiotics in food production. Cargill will also continue to explore alternatives to antibiotics that could further reduce their use in beef cattle. 

“Scientific research and yet-to-be-discovered innovative technologies could certainly help us further reduce, or eliminate, the need for antibiotics in the beef supply chain,” stated Keating. “We have an obligation to ensure that sick animals do not suffer, and that we prevent them from becoming ill, and we will use ongoing research efforts as the basis for any future additional reductions in antibiotic use.” 

Cargill will also increase to 90 percent the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified feed yards that supply it cattle by 2018, becoming the first major beef processor to establish such a target. BQA is a stewardship certification program created by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and includes training for cattle producers in best practices. Additionally, the company is working with the Canadian beef industry to create a similar program. 

Further reduction through collaboration

Cargill is collaborating with cattle ranchers, researchers, universities and allied partners to identify production practices and viable alternatives that could result in further reduction in the use of medicines for food animal production. Research projects are underway with the focus on topics ranging from nutrition to feeding practices, including work done by Cargill Animal Nutrition, a leader in the development of feed ingredients and formulations that have the potential to reduce the need for antibiotics.  

“As part of the consumer research we’ve conducted, we learned that we need to be more transparent about practices such as use of antibiotics,” explained Keating. “We will use our newly created webpage (www.cargillfreshmeat.com) to communicate our beef antibiotic policy, in addition to any newsworthy milestones that have the potential to further reduce antibiotic use in beef cattle. We will also engage with customers and other important stakeholders on a continual basis to better understand their expectations regarding antibiotic use in beef production, and how we can better meet those expectations.”  

Cargill also offers its customers antibiotic-free beef options through an affiliation with a strategic business partner that markets branded products.