A new locally produced chicken brand has hit the shelves amid global concerns about emerging antibiotic resistance.
The antibiotic-free Bare Bird brand was developed by Hazeldene’s. It hit Coles supermarket shelves in three states this month and sourced poultry from Lockwood South, Marong and up into the Wimmera.
The new brand was launched amid mounting concern about antibiotic resistance, with the World Health Organisation and other global health authorities saying antibiotics were being misused the world over, hastening the time it took for infectious diseases to become immune to treatments.
On Monday, global authorities launched an awareness week, with WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declaring antibiotic resistance was a “global crisis we cannot ignore”.
Misuse could include using antibiotics for viral infections like colds and the flu, as well as animal growth promoters on farms.
Food and Agriculture Organisation director-general José Graziano da Silva said the integrity of food systems was at stake.
“Antimicrobial veterinary medicines are a crucial tool for animal health and welfare and safe food production, but they are by no means the only tool.”
Bare Bird creator John Hazeldene said reduced exposure to antibiotics meant they would be more effective when needed.
“We believe a move to producing food without antibiotics is the right thing to do,” he said.
The Bare Bird chicken products were 100 per cent antibiotic free, accredited free range, and were raised on a plant-based diet containing no animal by-products, antibiotics, hormones or steroids.
“It’s something we’ve been trialing over three years, (because) we felt it was time to start trialing more batches without antibiotics in feed (and water),” Mr Hazeldene said.
He said antibiotics had been minimised in other areas of Hazeldene’s operations, something the company had led the industry in.
In 2012 Hazeldenes stopped using antibiotic growth promotants in all its chickens.
Currently, much of Hazeldene’s poultry was fed a mild antibiotic to enhance the gut of the chicken. After three weeks no antibiotics were used unless the animal became sick.
Antibiotics would be used on Bare Bird flocks if an illness broke out, with Mr Hazeldene saying it would be essential to protect animals’ welfare. If that happened, they would not be sold under the Bare Bird brand.
Hazeldene’s had also trailed feed containing no animal by-products in the past three years.
Bare Bird chickens were now only fed grains, seeds, legumes, and oils like wheat, barley, oats, corn, peas, beans, canola, and soy for added protein.
The vegetarian diet had enhanced the taste and succulence of the chicken due to the unsaturated fats in the diet. The meat was more marbled, similar to the quality of Wagyu beef, Mr Hazeldene said.