In recent years, major chicken companies, such as Perdue Farms and Tyson, and fast food restaurants, such as Chik-Fil-A and McDonald’s, have gone antibiotic-free, which largely explains why antimicrobial sales in the chicken industry are significantly lower than those of cattle and swine.
Dr. Chris Rademacher, a swine extension veterinarian at Iowa State University, said it is easier for the chicken industry to go antibiotic-free because broiler chickens have shorter lifespans. The longer an animal is alive, the more an animal risks becoming ill and needing antibiotics.
“In the broiler industry, where chickens are hatched and born … those lifespans are usually within the period of six to seven weeks. Whereas growing swine, their lifespan is more like seven to eight months, and beef cattle maybe a couple years,” he said.