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Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability

NewStream Farm Animal Care, Volume 3, Edition 3

A&W drives ahead with new chicken focus

Posted: March 12, 2015

Controversial approach paying dividends in carefully watched case study

Quick-service giant A&W is sure to ruffle feathers (pardon the pun) among a large segment of the domestic chicken industry after opening a new front in its controversial – yet obviously effective – "Raised without antibiotics" campaign.

Based on success with the same tactics for a beef campaign, A&W Food Services Canada Inc., announced a new "guarantee" of "farmed with care" practices for its chicken products.

"At A&W, caring about serving great-tasting food also means caring what goes into it," says the company website. "That's why we only serve chicken that's raised without the use of antibiotics and fed a grain-based, vegetarian diet without animal by-products."

'Ban vs. stewardship' fight takes shape

There are indications that many in the veterinary community, in particular, are uncomfortable with the trend this reflects toward banning antibiotics. This has driven a push to advocate for "antibiotic stewardship" that supports animal health food safety and responsible use of antibiotics. (For e.g. all Canadian chicken is arguably antibiotic free already because appropriate science-based withdrawal times are observed.)

Great marketing or muddying the waters?

A&W is no longer alone among a growing number of major food retailers taking or considering a similar path of using the antibiotics issue as a marketing tool. Critics call this an unhelpful tactic muddying the waters of public perception and creating unnecessary challenges for agriculture.

Where will the chips fall? The next year is anticipated to be a critical period where numerous players will consider the results of what A&W and others are doing as a basis for their own strategies. Learn more about how A&W is framing the issue here.


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