Why did Tyson Foods Slash Cattle Growth Promoter?

Why did Mega-Meat Processor and Marketer Tyson Foods Suspend Purchases of Treated Cattle?

Tyson Foods, based in Arkansas, is the world's second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork and the largest beef exporter in America. Tyson recently decided to suspend purchases of cattle treated with a growth promoting drug called Zilmax. Did Tyson make this decision for animal welfare purposes, or a matter of being competitive in export markets (or both… or neither…)!? Peggy Lowe tackled the above questions and more for NPR’s Harvest Publich Media earlier in August. To learn more, read the excerpt below. Or click here for the full article. Excerpt: Tyson Foods, Inc., announced this week that it would soon suspend purchases of cattle that had been treated with a controversial drug, citing animal welfare concerns. But many in the industry wonder if the real reason is not about cattle, but rather the battle for sales in other countries, where using drugs for meat production is banned. “I really do think this is more a marketing ploy from Tyson to raise some awareness so they can garner some export business from our overseas export partners,” said Dan Norcini, an independent commodities broker.

Surprising many in the industry, Tyson sent a letter to cattle feeders saying that as of Sept. 6, the company would no longer buy animals that had been treated with Zilmax, a controversial drug that bulks up cattle by as much as 30 pounds just before slaughter. Tyson is one of four companies that control 82 percent of the U.S. beef supply and is the first to make this change. 

The letter cited recent reports of cattle being delivered for processing that couldn’t walk or move.

“Truck drivers have indicated that there is a difference between loading cattle depending on the beta-agonist status of the diet,” she said, as reported by Feedstuffs, a weekly agribusiness newspaper. “Our plants have indicated that particular lots of cattle are showing up as ‘tender-footed,’ they do not want to move, seem lethargic and stiff, and have no energy.”

China and many countries in the European Union have banned the use of drugs in meat production. In May, Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, announced it would cut in half its purchase of animals raised with a similar drug. Just a week later, Smithfield announced its sale to a Chinese company.

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