Is Cargill Really Reducing Antibiotic Use in Turkeys?

turkey factory

photo: Natural News Global

Will we celebrate Thanksgiving this year with an antibiotic-free Turkey?

Cargill, one of the largest food companies in the world, announced last week that it will be ending the use of antibiotics to promote growth of turkeys it sells. The company cites growing consumer interest in antibiotic-free birds.

If you are asking yourself why in the world did turkeys regularly ingest antibiotics with their feed, you’re not alone. Fifty years ago, growers who treated their sick birds with antibiotics discovered an interesting side effect. The antibiotics made the turkeys (and chickens, and cows and pigs) grow faster!

Fast forward to 2014, when 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US is for farm animals. While at first it seems like a good idea, there is a dark side to antibiotics. It’s called antiobiotic resistance.  Starting in the 1970′s, antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria started to emerge. An arms race of sorts began to develop, where newer and more powerful antibiotics worked for a while, until a new bacteria popped up that was unaffected. Evolution on steroids, if you will.

The threat of bacterial resistance is very real. Imagine yourself not being able to undergo important surgery because the risk of infection is too high – no antibiotic would be able to keep you safe from these killer strains of bacteria.

Late last year, the FDA issued guideline to livestock growers, urging them to voluntarily phase out the use of antibiotics for growth. Industry observers would say the FDA’s guidelines came about 20 years too late.

But back to Cargill. While the announcement seems like good news, for all practical purposes, the actual amount of antibiotics could actually stay steady. Sick turkeys will continue receiving the drugs. Unfortunately, many – if not most – birds lead very sick lives because of the crowded and dirty conditions in which they are raised. Sick birds can lead to sick humans – In 2011, Cargill recalled 36 million pounds (!) of ground turkey due to a salmonella outbreak.

If we really want to rid ourselves of antibiotics in animal husbandry, the entire system needs to change. CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) need to disappear and animals need to grow with ample room and outdoor access. That way they won’t get sick in the first place.


  • Ksimp

    How then do you produce enough meat at an affordable price to feed the world? Cagill is taking a stance to focus on feeding the world. I think we first need to think about the state of third works countries before we worry about the state of a turkey living a care free life.

    • me

      You missed the point. Cargill don’t give a shi@# about the world they only care about the money.

      • Bill mead

        “me” you should google cargill feed the world, to form a more well rounded opinion on the issue

    • H2O

      What about the starving people here in the USA ??

      • Ksimp

        Grass feed/organic meat and poultry is more expensive to produce so that will increase the cost of meat here in the states as well. I’m not saying going organic is worse off, if your an organic farmer, rancher, consumer that’s fantastic! I’m just saying that producing organic meat increase land use, man power, for fewer amount of meat at a higher cost. So feedlots to quit antibiotic use would harm the starving people in the USA too.

        • Vanna

          Americans typically overcomsume meat anyway. And it’s overprocessed. Eating less could actually have profound good health effects as far as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension goes. I’m not sure why anyone would argue for the use of antibiotics. What’s the positivity in eating chemically adulterated meat that could make us sicker as a nation? You argue that more people could be fed, but at what expense? More instances of chronic illness and resultant shorter life expectancy? An epidemic? I believe you underestimate what a fiercely antibiotic-resistant strain of disease could do to humans. It may cause a global pandemic. The head of the CDC talked about the dangers of antibiotic resistance just a few days prior. I’d check USA Today or HuffPo for a snapshot of his remarks.


    i just don’t like hippies creating all of this fuss about EVERY SINGLE societal situation and then when anyone tries to push back they are crucified for it and are deemed to hate animals or hate other people or this or that… the left gets so focused on miniscule issues that nothing real ever gets done anymore… I am tired of all of this complaint over “global warming” and organic food and contraception….. you can have you belief but don’t push it on to me

    • California liberal

      Nobody pushed you on it. You clicked on the article. Nobody made you get on site you don’t believe in. Have a problem with food politics, don’t read em!

      • New York libertarian

        HELLO! Have you ever watched the news you tree hugging hippie!! The only thing that’s ever covered is how lazy women wanna kill babies for free! They can’t afford $10 for birth control? And then if it’s not that it’s about PETA ganging up on ppl and shaming for something that isn’t shameful, and it’s affects me because you want your small antibiotic free turkey which makes the turkey my family buys twice as expensive and half the price! I agree with TEXAS REPUBLICAN if you couldn’t tell, we should give California away to the highest bidder anyways all they do is screw up the economy with their outrageous politics!

        • New York libertarian

          Half the price**

          • New York libertarian

            Half the SIZE ** :) )

        • Anonymous

          My birth control costs me $60/ month. There is no generic available. I take it for a serious medical issue, not for birth control. In fact, I wish I didn’t have to take it.

    • me

      What else can we expect from aTexan. What you have inside your head is the same thing that came out of a longhorn’s butt.


        Typical of someone like you to deflect the real issue because there is no logic to your argument

        • miss madam

          There was never any logic in yours. All you did was cry and whine about “hippies”. Typical Texan Republican.

  • H2O

    Are the trying to feed the world or kill the world ??

    • laralyn

      Uh Iif they kill the world there will be less people to buy their fat cows!? Ever thought of that!?
      If they feed it there will be a larger market. That means more money for them.
      Seriously. Do you know how economics work?

      • H2O

        Yeah feed the world with sick birds. That will keep it healthy and strong. Do sick dirty birds sound good to you??? Pharmaceuticals for the sick birds pharmaceuticals for the sick people yeah win win. They don’t care about the Heath of the consumer. Maybe they don’t want to kill us quickly just slowly. That would look to obvious.Sick and slowly dying.

        • laralyn

          Nope they do not sound good to me but they sound pretty Cargill because the r means more birds to sell, more people to feed, more money to make.
          Seriously, you have no idea how retarded your conspiracy theories sound.
          Why the fuck would you want to kill your own market? Your source of MONEY which is what they as a business are after.
          The antibiotics they use might be killing us yes – but I guarantee you it is not intentiinal.

  • mfp142

    My opinion, as someone who has raised turkeys, is that they are living creatures that need fresh air, water, grass and protection from predators. Give them those things and they will NEVER need proactive antibiotics. The sun and fresh grass keeps them healthy. We have more than enough land in good ole America for this! It CAN be done and there would be much less food waste in this country because the meat is sooooo much tastier than a bird who has been raised in the dark.
    Dont let the politics keep you from the end goal…healthy foods=healthy people who dont need prescription drugs for cholesterol, high blood pressure etc….