Tyson Foods reportedly plans to reduce its offerings of antibiotic-free beef, adding to a similar measure introduced last year for chicken.

According to an unnamed source cited by US-headquartered news agency Bloomberg, the meat giant informed a customer late in 2023 that it would not be able to continue to supply beef without antibiotics.

Tyson Foods has also ended a programme with the Certified Angus Beef company in Ohio to market antibiotic-free beef, Bloomberg noted.

The US meat company downplayed its intentions in a statement sent to Just Food, providing similar comments to last summer in response to the reintroduction of antibiotics in chicken. Certified Angus Beef had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.

A year ago, it emerged that Tyson Foods was reintroducing some antibiotics into its chicken supply chain and removing the “no antibiotics ever” label it had used on its namesake chicken products.

The type of antibiotics to be reintroduced were deemed to not be important to human medicine.

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At the time, a spokesperson for the company said Tyson Foods bases its “decisions on sound science” and its selection of the antibiotics it would use follow a standard recognised by the US Department of Agriculture – “no antibiotics important to human medicine”.

According to a document seen by Bloomberg, Tyson Foods said late last year it would also be downsizing its offering of antibiotic-free beef under its Open Prairie Natural Meats brand.

In a statement provided to Just Food with respect to beef, Tyson Foods noted it “is dedicated to maintaining the health and welfare of the animals within our supply chain”.

It added: “We base our decisions on sound science and an evolving understanding of the best practices impacting our customers, consumers and the animals in our care.

“We continue to offer antibiotic-free beef based on market demand, and our commitment to antibiotic stewardship has not changed.”

In last summer’s statement, Tyson Foods explained: “Based on current science, Tyson branded products are transitioning to No Antibiotics Important to Human Medicine (NAIHM), which is expected to be complete by the end of the calendar year.

“While roughly half of the industry uses some form of antibiotic in producing chicken, NAIHM is a heightened standard that has been recognised by the USDA for decades and qualified through programme documentation showing no antibiotics important to human health have been used.”

Commenting on the latest decision applying to beef, Steve Roach, a food safety director at Keep Antibiotics Working, said: “Tyson Foods pulling back on stopping antibiotic overuse is disappointing and short sighted.

“Antibiotic resistance continues to be a major public health threat as indicated by the UN High Level meeting on antimicrobial resistance planned for this fall.

“It appears that Tyson Foods is using its large market share to push buyers (e.g. Chick-fil-a, Certified Angus Beef) to weaken their standards instead of responding to consumer demand for safer beef.”