Photo courtesy of the Road to Angkor
In a baffling case of doublespeak, the world's largest meat processing company Tyson Foods has publicly admitted to injecting chickens with antibiotics—but it's suing the US Department of Agriculture in order to keep the Antibiotic-Free label anyway. And how does Tyson plan on getting around the fact that the label is a bold-faced lie? By manipulating legal jargon of course! Tyson is claiming that since its chickens are merely injected with antibiotics before they hatch, they're not really 'raised' with antibiotics. Whether that amazingly dubious claim will hold any water in court remains to be seen, but this certainly isn't the first bump in the antibiotic-free road for Tyson. The conflict has roots dating back to 2007: according to Natural News, Tyson has spent tens of millions of dollars since then on its Antibiotic-Free ad campaign. The company launched the campaign in response to scientific findings that the use of antibodies in animal agriculture could lead to increased amounts of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, which in turn could lead to a pandemic.
Maybe amidst all that rushing around to get the label passed, Tyson forgot to actually enact the label's claim—and it turns out this isn't the first time Tyson and the USDA have haggled over standards. From Natural News:
"After Tyson began labeling its chicken antibiotic-free, the USDA warned the company that such labels were not truthful, because Tyson regularly treats its birds' feed with bacteria-killing ionophores. Tyson argued that ionophores are antimicrobials rather than antibiotics, but the USDA reiterated its policy that "ionophores are antibiotics."
A compromise was eventually reached to adjust the label, since ionophores aren't used to treat human diseases. That label was "raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans." Which of course, has now been found to be completely untrue. So now perhaps Tyson will have to renegotiate their compromise—but "injected with antibiotics before birth, but subsequently raised without them" doesn't quite have the same ring.
More on Antibiotics and the USDA:
USDA Waters Down Organic Standards
Soil Bacteria Thrive on Antibiotics : A Potential Reservoir of ...
How Industrial Farming Hurts Us, Even if We Don't Eat It : TreeHugger