US poultry processor Pilgrim's Pride plans to remove all antibiotics from 25% of its chicken production by 2019.

The company, majority owned by Brazil-based meat giant JBS, has around 5% of its output that contains no antibiotics.

"We have a plan, a very definitive plan, where by the end of 2018, something over 25% of all of our production will be antibiotic-free," Pilgrim's chief executive Bill Lovette told The Wall Street Journal.
Lovette said the company's plan was based on current contracts with existing customers.

Pilgrim's is one of a number of poultry processors in the US looking to reduce their use of antibiotics in their production, prompted by a rise in consumer demand.

The poultry industry's largest customers are also looking for processors to curb their use of antibiotics.

Last month, McDonald's announced it would within the next two years only be sourcing "chicken raised without antibiotics that are important to human medicine". just-food understands Pilgrim's pledge to continue rearing antibiotic-free meat has not been sparked by McDonald's announcement.

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"We're seeing quite a big growth in antibiotic-free product," JBS CEO Wesley Batista told the WSJ. "As consumers and as the population is looking more for that, the industry needs to follow."