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Non-Antibiotics a Case of Choice; What About Taste?

May 12, 2014
By: Wyatt Bechtel, Dairy Today google + 
BT Rotator Beef Consumer
The debate on the use of antibiotics when it comes to meat retailers is focused on giving the consumers a choice.  

Food executives address the use of antibiotics and how it relates to a tasty eating experience for consumers.

Use of antibiotics in animals has been a hot topic politically and at the dinner table. Some consumers are interested in alternative methods to raising livestock and several companies have been willing to offer those customers what they want.

Last year Panera Bread Company came under fire from the agriculture community because of some advertising campaigns that the popular restaurant chain was using to sell products. Panera was propping up its non-antibiotic chicken as being a better option than "easy chicken" or conventionally raised animals.

During the recent Animal Agriculture Alliance Summit a panel was hosted on antibiotic use in animals and Dan Kish, head chef and VP of Food for Panera, had a chance to offer some insight on how the company markets their food.

"We made a move 10 years ago to convert our chickens to antibiotic free, vegetarian fed. At the time for a restaurant chain of our size it was not normal," Kish says.

The initial conversations had nothing to do with antibiotics, but rather those moves were made so customers could have a more enjoyable eating experience.

"All of the reasons we do the things we do begin with taste," Kish adds. "Taste always comes first and we try to make sure we are very transparent in what is on the menu."

Panera set out to find chicken that taste like chicken, so the restaurant chain started a relationship with Bell & Evans, a chicken processor specializing in natural products.

Kish believes if less is done to food when it is being raised then it will translate into a better product for consumers.

Besides Panera, there have been an increasing number of restaurants and food companies utilizing a model of selling food with a moral conscious.

Perdue Farms, Inc. has seen the opportunity of non-antibiotic food as a way to build stakeholder trust in the chicken company’s business.

Joe Forsthoffer, director of corporate communications at Perdue, was also on the panel with Kish and he sees a number of factors influencing consumer decision making and not all of those are science or fact-based.

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