CHICAGO Nov 30 Pilgrim's Pride Corp,
the world's second-largest chicken producer, will approach a
goal it set to curb antibiotics use ahead of schedule due to its
planned acquisition of a smaller rival, the company's chief
executive said on Wednesday.
CEO Bill Lovette said on a conference call that about 24
percent of the chicken Pilgrim's produces will be raised without
any antibiotics "some time just after the first quarter of
Last year, Lovette said the company, which is mostly owned
by meat packer JBS SA, wanted to eliminate
antibiotics from 25 percent of its supply by the end of 2018.
His projection for next year includes supplies Pilgrim's
expects to acquire in a $350 million deal for chicken producer
GNP Company, which was announced on Tuesday.
Without the acquisition, about 21 percent of Pilgrim's
chicken would be raised without antibiotics, Lovette said.
Food companies have ramped up efforts to remove antibiotics
from chicken production as consumers and health experts have
grown more concerned that the overuse of certain drugs may
diminish their effectiveness in fighting disease in humans.
Removing the drugs and labeling chicken as being
antibiotic-free also often allows producers to sell chicken for
"We are far ahead of our goal of being a quarter of our
production antibiotic-free," Lovette told analysts on a call to
discuss the GNP acquisition.
A spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for more
Acquiring a company that already produces antibiotic-free
chicken, such as GNP, is one way large meat producers can
quickly increase offerings to target health-conscious buyers.
Otherwise, the process of removing antibiotics from farms and
hatcheries takes years of work, as chicken producers must find
alternative ways to keep birds healthy.
Last month, Pilgrim's said it was converting a Texas
facility to antibiotic-free chicken production, which would
bring the company "more than halfway" to its goal for reducing
Tyson Foods Inc, the nation's largest chicken
company, plans to remove antibiotics important to human medicine
from its flocks by September 2017.
In August, McDonald's Corp, which buys chicken from
Tyson and others, said it had removed chicken raised with such
drugs from its U.S. supply months earlier than expected.
The fast-food chain completed the change early due to
quicker than expected work by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, which helped verify that birds were not given the
drugs, an executive said at the time.
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)