Published on: November 5, 2014by Kevin Coupe
"Fresh Talk" is sponsored by Invatron: Proven Technology. Innovative Thinking. Intelligent Solutions for Fresh.
Content Guy's Note: "Fresh Talk" is an MNB feature that alternates on Wednesdays with "Kate's Take." It will examine all aspects of "fresh," in both the broadest and most focused meaning of that term (depending on the whims of the columnist). "Fresh Talk" is sponsored by Invatron...which you can learn more about here…but which has no input into the subjects covered or responsibility for the attitudes taken.
The Wall Street Journal had a story the other day on how a "growing array of food producers moving to limit the routine use of antibiotics in livestock production."
In part, this is because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "responding to concerns about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, asked drug and meat companies late last year to end the practice of feeding antibiotics to livestock to speed growth … The FDA views its approach of seeking voluntary changes as the most effective way to reduce antibiotic use in animals, arguing that a ban could tie it up in lengthy legal proceedings."
But the thing that strikes me as most important is the fact that both the government and these suppliers seem to be responding to consumer demand: "Consumer Reports, in a 2012 survey, found 72% of people were extremely or very concerned about widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed. This year, research firm Midan Marketing surveyed grocery shoppers and found 88% aware of antibiotic use in animals and 60% concerned about it." And public health experts say that this trend is a positive one - more sustainable than if the government had simply mandated such a change.
The problem, according to the story, is this: "More than two million Americans a year develop bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics, which kill at least 23,000 annually, according to a report last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Public-health leaders call this a crisis for global health, and pin part of the blame on the meat industry’s widespread use of the drugs … The concern is that herds or flocks raised in close confinement and dosed repeatedly with antibiotics create millions of living petri dishes in which harmful bacteria have a chance to mutate to evade the drugs. The bacteria then could be passed to humans if meat wasn’t cooked fully or if traces of manure used to fertilize crops remained on produce."
Among the companies that have made the move are Perdue and Tyson. In addition, the Journal writes, "Retailers where people now can buy meat raised without antibiotics include Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. Fast-food chain Chick-fil-A Inc. says it is phasing out all chicken raised with antibiotics over five years. Antibiotic-free beef, pork and chicken account for only around 5% of meat sold in the U.S., by industry estimates, but its share is growing quickly. Sales of such chicken at U.S. retailers rose 34% by value last year, according to market-research firm IRI."
In other words, the tide is shifting when it comes to something that was pretty much accepted practice in the fresh foods arena not so many years ago. Consumer attitudes are changing, retailer preferences are changing, and institutionalized supplier behavior is changing. And these shifts are changing the shape and makeup of fresh meat sections all over the country.
Attention should be paid.
- KC's View: