Costco is pumping fewer antibiotics into its meat products as it embarks on a $275 million plan to own its chicken supply chain

  • Costco is seeking to cut down on the antibiotics used in its meat products, according to The Seattle Times.
  • The move is most likely in response to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • Costco is following in the footsteps of companies like Pizza Hut and KFC by reducing the use of antibiotics in meat products.

Costco is pretty famous for its meats.

It’s a prime location for rotisserie chicken. It’s got a carnivore-friendly food court filled with hot dogs and chicken bakes. Plus, thanks to Costco’s bulk-sized offerings, many a member will find themselves walking out with quite a lot of meat.

The retailer runs its own beef supply operation and is looking to establish a similar outfit for poultry in Fremont, Nebraska. The new chicken-processing factory, set to open in September 2019, will cost $US275 million and is expected to churn out 100 million chickens a year once it’s up and running.

But from now on, the warehouse chain plans to handle its protein products a bit differently.

The Seattle Times reported on Friday that Costco recently established “new standards and monitoring requirements for antibiotic use in animal agriculture.” In other words, it’s cutting back on the antibiotics used in its meat.

Read on: 8 mistakes you should avoid when shopping for wine at Costco

Costco said in a statement about its overall commitment to animal welfare published on its website that its policy “is to limit application of these antibiotics to therapeutic use for the prevention, control, and treatment of disease and not, for example, for purposes of growth promotion or feed efficiency.”

In that statement, the retailer pledged to, by December 2020, set a target date by which compliance with its new antibiotics policy “will be mandatory and monitored” and to “assess the feasibility of eliminating the routine use of medically important antibiotics for prevention of disease among supplier farms.”

A Costco representative did not immediately return Business Insider’s request for comment. But the looming threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is most likely the reason the retailer updated the policy.

Many animal farms used to pump all their livestock with antibiotics to prevent illness, regardless of whether any of the animals were sick. An estimated 70% of the US’s total volume of medically important antibiotics – the kind that people use for things like fighting infections – is sold to be used for meat production, according to a report from HSBC.

Scientists have cited an overuse of antibiotics in farming in their prediction that antibiotic resistance could kill up to 10 million people annually by 2050. HSBC has sounded the alarm on the practice, saying that the consequences of antibiotic resistance could be “devastating” for humanity. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded that antibiotic-resistant “nightmare bacteria” are prevalent in the US.

But Costco isn’t the only well-known company to start easing off the antibiotics. Whole Foods has even more stringent guidelines for its meat products, according to The Times. Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Papa Murphy’s, and KFC are also establishing policies with the intent of springing for chicken raised without antibiotics.

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