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Cargill turkey slices antibiotic use, creates Honest Turkey™ antibiotic-free product line

Elimination of growth-promoting antibiotics announced in 2014 is followed by removal for prevention purposes in 2016; aligns with company promise to reduce antibiotics used for both people and animals


Cargill is again reducing antibiotic use in its turkey business, making good on its promise of ongoing reductions in their overall use. On Aug. 1, 2016, the company ended the use of gentamicin – an antibiotic used in both human and animal healthcare – for disease prevention in turkeys harvested for its two largest brands, Honeysuckle White® and Shady Brook Farms®. Turkeys will continue to receive antibiotics for control and treatment of disease. Cargill’s turkey products covered by this decision will be available in the marketplace by Jan. 1, 2017.

Correspondingly, Cargill is expanding its antibiotic-free turkey products through the creation of its new Honest Turkey™ product line. These products will be differentiated from conventional turkey offerings because they come from turkeys that are never treated with antibiotics.

“Eliminating antibiotic use for disease prevention purposes is the next logical step after ending the use of antibiotics for growth promotion purposes, which we began in 2014,” said Jan Hood, head of marketing for the Cargill turkey business. “Based on consumer research and their desire for transparency in food production, we developed the Honest Turkey™ product line, which communicates the turkeys are raised without antibiotics.”

“To successfully meet the increasing demand from our customers for antibiotic-free turkey, we start with a larger number of birds than required knowing a percentage may become ill, require antibiotics and be removed from our antibiotic-free turkey program,” stated Tim Maupin, head of turkey agriculture operations for Cargill. “We have an obligation to treat turkeys that get sick because we want healthy birds and it’s the right thing to do.”

“As part of our decision-making process, we weighed the desires of our customers and consumers to ensure the long-term effectiveness of antibiotics for people and animals, while also maintaining our commitment to the health of turkeys raised for food,” stated John Niemann, president of Cargill’s Wichita-based turkey business. “When needed, we believe the judicious use of antibiotics in animal agriculture helps assure a safe food supply. At Cargill, we remain committed to exploring fact-based technologies as alternatives to antibiotics, and to the reduced use of shared-class antibiotics when the efficacy of a given technology has been proven effective and economical.”

Underscoring its commitment to reduce antibiotic use for food animals, in March Cargill announced a 20 percent reduction in shared-class antibiotics – those used for human and animal health – used at four beef cattle feed yards owned by the company, as well as five additional feed yards owned by alliance partners that provide Cargill with cattle.

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated withdrawal periods for use of antibiotics used for animal health. As a result, the meat consumers eat does not contain antibiotics.

About Cargill
Cargill provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services to the world. Together with farmers, customers, governments and communities, we help people thrive by applying our insights and 150 years of experience. We have 149,000 employees in 70 countries who are committed to feeding the world in a responsible way, reducing environmental impact and improving the communities where we live and work. For more information, visit and our News Center.

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Note to Editors:
Gentamicin is usually given to newborn turkey poults at a dosage to prevent disease and help ensure healthy birds during the critical period after hatching. Cargill closely monitors poults as they grow to make certain they remain healthy through their transition to the 700 independent farms that raise turkeys to harvest size for the Honeysuckle White® and Shady Brook Farms® branded products. Gentamicin is an FDA-approved shared-class antibiotic, meaning it is used in both human and animal health. Cargill is committed reducing the use of shared-class antibiotics in food animals it harvests and processes for nutritious protein and by-products. The majority of antibiotics used in animal agriculture are in a class called ionophores, which are never used for human health purposes. Control of disease means disease is present in part of a flock and antibiotics are used to stop the spread of disease while sick animals are being treated. Treatment of disease means that antibiotics are given to treat sick birds. Both Control and Treatment could take place concurrently in a flock/barn. The definitions of “Control” and “Treatment” cited above are aligned with those by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

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