US poultry processor Sanderson Farms now faces a situation where nearly half of its investors want it to stop giving antibiotics to healthy chickens.

An anti-drugs proposal at its annual general meeting on 15 February received the support of 43% of votes cast. A similar proposal last year garnered 30% support.

The company is the only large US chicken producer that has not committed to curbing the use of the drugs.

Last month, Sanderson stated there is too much antibiotic-free chicken in the US, suggesting its stance hasn’t changed, but there is increasing pressure on it to change its ways from the likes of the World Health Organization and non-profit organisation As You Sow.

Opponents of the use of antibiotics in the food chain that the use of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent illness in healthy farm animals contributes to the rise of dangerous antibiotic-resistance in humans.

Sanderson has said phasing out antibiotics “would fundamentally change our business and our brand without good reason” but it said it would eliminate them if it is in the company’s best interest.