US meat and poultry processor Tyson Foods has said it will introduce more informative labelling on its Raised Without Antibiotics chicken range, having reached agreement with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The company said that after six weeks of consumer research and discussion, Tyson and USDA had agreed upon the following descriptor: "Chicken Raised Without Antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans."

Tyson had fallen foul of USDA regulations because it uses ionophores as an ingredient in its chicken feed which the USDA considers to be an antibiotic. The USDA said in November that it had mistakenly granted approval for the labelling and that the approval was being rescinded.
"We once again turned to consumers for their guidance and they told us this label more clearly conveys our chickens are not raised with any feed ingredients that could contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans," said Dave Hogberg, senior vice president of consumer products marketing at Tyson Foods. "The new labelling enables us to continue producing Raised Without Antibiotics chicken, which nine out of ten consumers say is important to them." 

Tyson said it would be phasing in the new labelling over the next few months. The company also confirmed that it plans to continue using ionophores, which it said are recognised and approved by the federal government as a safe feed ingredient.

Ionophores, Tyson said, are used as a preventive measure against an intestinal illness in chickens, but are not used in human medicine and do not contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance to important human drugs. The company also pointed out that it had disclosed to the USDA that it was using ionophores in the production of the antibiotic-free range when it made its original label application.