October 31, 2016

Responding to Consumer Attitudes on Antibiotics on Beef Production

WaggaWaggaCargill’s ‘Feed for Thought’ survey of more than 2,000 participants in the U.S. and Brazil found that 54 percent of U.S. consumers are more likely to purchase beef raised without antibiotics, however, only 35 percent are willing to pay more for it.

“I expect that as American Millennials age, we will need to work toward continuously heightening our efforts in the area of transparency, while always working to address consumer food trends with a nutritious and affordable food supply,” said Randy Krotz, CEO of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

Recognizing this consumer trend, Cargill’s beef business in the U.S. recently reduced shared-class antibiotics – those used for both animal and human health – by 20 percent at its four cattle feed yards, as well as at four alliance partner feed yards. This accounts for a total of approximately 1.2 million animals annually.

“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 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.”

Cargill is collaborating with cattle ranchers, researchers, universities and allied partners to identify alternatives that could result in further reduction in the use of medicines for animal production. Projects are already underway, including research 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.

“We have an obligation to ensure that sick animals do not suffer and we use ongoing research efforts as the basis for any future additional reductions in antibiotic use,” stated Keating. “We’ve listened to consumers and customers, we’ve taken this first step, and we believe there are more steps coming in the not-too-distant future.”

Cargill will also increase to 90 percent the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified feed yards that supply its 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 and includes training for cattle producers in best practices. Additionally, the company is working with the Canadian beef industry to create a similar program.