On June 1, the Livingston-based company unveiled two lines of chicken: Foster Farms Simply Grown and Foster Farms Certified Organic. Simply Grown is antibiotic-free while Certified Organic is free-range chicken grown on organic feed, also without antibiotics.
Foster Farms Simply Grown and Foster Farms Certified Organic are available in stores now. The organic line was expected to sell for about $2 per pound more than non-organic chicken.
Foster Farms will also continue offering its conventional Fresh and Natural line, which is now produced without antibiotics used for human illnesses. That change is part of Foster Farms’ antibiotic stewardship policy.
Foster Farms pointed to a survey of West Coast Millennials by MetrixLab that found that parenthood is a driving force among young people who are calling for change in food production. Among the survey’s findings was that 79 percent of Millennial parents surveyed agreed that they are much more concerned than their parents’ generation about chemicals, antibiotics and ingredients used to produce food, while 78 percent say they are more concerned than their parents’ generation about nutrition.
“That’s all part of a movement to see food produced as naturally as possible with less reliance on chemicals, and so, in bringing out these products, we’re responding to what we know is a need and a want from consumers,” said Foster Farms Communications Director Ira Brill after a press conference at the State Capitol in Sacramento.
The company participated in a White House stewardship program on antibiotic usage Tuesday. The White House called on calling on food companies, retailers those concerned about the health of both humans and animals to commit to more careful antibiotic use.
Fellow poultry producers Perdue and Tyson are also decreasing their reliance on human antibiotics.
Brill said the industry-wide trend was also driven by perception that antibiotics given to poultry has helped build microbial resistance to antibiotics.
During Wednesday’s press conference, representatives from the state’s food industry praised Foster Farms’ move.
“The future of the organic poultry industry is the brightest of all meat categories because of the large-scale commitments made by major brands such as Foster Farms in the sector,” said the Organic Trade Association’s Executive Director Laura Batcha.
Steven Roach, a senior analyst for Keep Antibiotics Working, told the Des Moines Register that Foster Farms’ move was a step in the right direction but could go further.
“Foster Farms could demonstrate even greater leadership by being the first company to take similar steps in its turkey production,” he said.
“We have not yet put the same policy in place for turkey. It’s something that we’re looking at. They’re a different species,” Brill said. “I think in the long run this is something the industry will ultimately implement.”
However, Brill said Foster Farms is bringing out Foster Farms Certified Organic turkey and organic ground turkey.