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Talking Turkey: A guide to buying turkey raised without overusing antibiotics

Protect public health and buy a Thanksgiving turkey raised without overusing life-saving drugs
For Immediate Release

LOS ANGELES -- As Americans head to the grocery store to purchase their Thanksgiving turkeys, U.S. PIRG has released its first ever “Talking Turkey” guide to purchasing turkeys raised without overusing antibiotics. Turkey producers use more medically important antibiotics per pound of meat produced than any other sector of the meat industry, and studies have shown that routine use of antibiotics in meat production can lead to an increase in antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” 

“Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this holiday season might look and feel different, but one thing will remain the same -- Americans will eat turkeys for Thanksgiving,” said Sydney Riess, U.S. PIRG’s public health campaigns associate. “Consumers can drive change and protect public health by buying turkeys raised without overusing antibiotics.” 

Our researchers found that it’s often difficult to find a turkey producer’s antibiotics use information on corporate websites -- and if any information is there, it’s often ambiguous or misleading. Shoppers can use U.S. PIRG’s “Talking Turkey” guide, which is based on public information about each brand’s antibiotic use that a consumer could easily access on that brand’s website. Using that information, we split the companies into three categories: 

Green category: These companies have publicly available information on their websites saying that they prohibit the use of all antibiotics or the routine use of medically important antibiotics in all of the whole turkeys that they sell. Routine use refers to antibiotic use in otherwise healthy animals to prevent disease.

Yellow category: These companies may offer lines of whole turkeys raised without antibiotics, or without the routine use of medically important antibiotics. However, check your label! That policy doesn’t necessarily apply to all whole turkeys sold by the brand, based on their websites.

Red category: These companies have no or limited information about antibiotic use in whole turkeys on their websites, and what is available suggests that they continue to use medically important antibiotics routinely to prevent disease in otherwise healthy animals.

Overusing antibiotics to produce meat is one of the foremost contributors to antibiotic resistance, a public health issue that claims the lives of at least 35,000 Americans every year. If we continue to overuse these medicines, those numbers could skyrocket. If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, we’ll turn the clock back on modern medicine, making common infections, simple surgeries and childbirth much more dangerous -- even life-threatening. 

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