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Where are Quebec Poultry Farmers on goal to produce antibiotic-free chicken?

Yesterday, we cited this older article from Canadian Poultry that stated that Quebec poultry farmers could be ready to eliminate antibiotic use in their chickens by 2010. Today, we decided to do some digging to see if that prediction had come true.

St-Hubert, the province’s favourite chicken chain (and a spot my sister worked at throughout high school in an Ottawa area restaurant) has expressed a wish to serve nothing but antibiotic-free chicken in its restaurants, and Quebec poultry farmers have been striving to answer that call. To put it in perspective, its like KFC saying they’ll only use antibiotic-free chicken for the province of Quebec. That’s about how popular St-Hubert is. When the issue was originally raised, St-Hubert served over 100,000 chickens per week in its restaurants.

In 2011, St-Hubert is saying on its website that it is working with Quebec poultry farmers towards this goal, but they are not there yet. It has turned from an all-out ban to a “gradual elimination”. St-Hubert may have just gotten some help from CBC Marketplace’s exposition of the fact that antibiotic resistance appears in nearly every batch of chicken sold at the grocery store.

Marketplace is not the first to bring up the hot topic of antibiotic resistance in poultry. This article in the renowned medical journal “The Lancet” examined the use of antibiotics in the Quebec poultry industry, and found themselves trying to untangle a thickly woven web of politics while simply trying to get to the bottom of the issue. The article is entitled “Poultry, politics, and antibiotic resistance” and deserves a read for a more in-depth look at the issues surrounding the topic.

Unfortunately, the Quebec chicken industry website seems less concerned with eliminating antibiotics and more concerned with dispelling “myths” about antibiotic use in chickens, such as in this article (French only). It basically states that if the chickens are subjected to a short period of not being fed antibiotics, all antibiotics will be eliminated from their system. While this may be the case, the resistance to those antibiotics certainly remains, as we have seen in the Marketplace documentary. While individual Quebec poultry producers seem happy to take on the task of producing antibiotic-free chicken for St-Hubert, the industry as a whole seems resistant to the idea.

We’ll keep digging on the issue to find out who and who isn’t willing to make sure your kids can eat antibiotic-free chicken in Canada. Stay tuned!

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