How do you want your chicken, NAE, NE3 or CRAU?  Huh?


  • NAE – No Antibiotics Ever

  • CRAU – Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use

  • NE3- Never Ever 3 – no antibiotics, no growth promotants, no animal byproducts


These are specifications you can use in your Request for Proposal when purchasing.  What’s the difference and why should you care?


The concern is the growing problem of antibiotic overuse and misuse leading to antibiotic resistance.   The public does not want antibiotics to be used to promote animal growth or to prevent disease in place of responsible, healthy living conditions for the flocks.


No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) is a great marketing tool. But is it sustainable, affordable, or even necessary? The Urban School Food Alliance, which is consists of NY, LA, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, and Orlando school districts only purchase poultry that eliminate the improper use of antibiotics. LAUSD is committed to going antibiotic and hormone-free for their students’ meals.  Their goals are:


  1. No animal by-products in the feed

  2. Vegetarian diet for the animals

  3. Humanely treated animals, with companies following the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines

  4. NAE – never antibiotics ever


Urban School Food Alliance Chairman Eric Goldstein said, "This move, (raising standards) by the Alliance shows that school food directors across the country truly care about the health and wellness of students."


Senior Attorney, Mark Izeman, with the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) indicates that purchasing poultry raised with unnecessary antibiotics is critical for the safety of our children. The NRDC states that much of our national use of antibiotics is used on animals to compensate for unsanitary living condition on industrial animal farms.  This misuse leads to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  The World Health Organization warns that overuse of antibiotics in food animals increases antibiotic resistance in humans.


McDonalds, Subway, Chipotle, Panera, and Chick-fil-A adhere to the CRAU certification.  CRAU allows the use of a certain type of antibiotic (ionophores), while limiting the use of antibiotics such as tetracyclines, penicilliums, and sulfas.  Ionophore use in animals is considered medically important by the World Health Organization (WHO).


Ionophores are used in animals but not in humans. It is an antiparasitic agent that prevents coccidiosis, an intestinal disease.  By managing coccidiosis animal suffering and death is reduced.  Veterinarians and poultry producers view ionophores as necessary to maintain the health of poultry, while ensuring the affordability of our food. Without proper medicine, birds suffer and die.


Some veterinarians and food safety advocates believe that it is an ethical decision to continue the use of ionophores.  The goal of the veterinarians is directly related to the concern of the health and wellness of poultry.   Some believe that grouping ionophores with other antibiotics is a mistake.


The position of the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) is, "When the decision is reached to use antimicrobials for therapy, veterinarians should strive to optimize therapeutic efficacy and minimize resistance to antimicrobials to protect public and animal health."   AVMA supports judicious use of antibiotics.


The question becomes, should ionophores be allowed for the bird’s welfare or not?  It seems that Never Ever 3 as well as CRAU are the most reasonable available options, which leave room for judicious antibiotic use.


According to Poultry Health Today, the use of ionophores does not reduce the efficacy of antibiotic use in humans. Does this mean using NAE, Never Antibiotics Ever is swinging the pendulum too far?


Here are two other terms to learn:


  1. No Antibiotics Administered and Raised Without Antibiotics are USDA acceptable claims.  However, there is no verification system in place.

  2. Antibiotic-free means nothing. No poultry sold in the US can have antibiotics at the time of testing.  Since the antibiotics can pass through the bird’s system within weeks, this claim just means the bird hasn’t recently been exposed to antibiotics.


Besides antibiotic use, we also have an opportunity to address the welfare of farmed animals.  Panera Bread did this. They adopted practices outlined by the Global Animal Partnership’s (GAP).  GAP is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to improve the living conditions of the farm animals, by creating a 5-step program


The National Chicken Council (NCC) recognizes that consumers are now considering how animals are raised and treated during their lives.  They are aware of their ethical obligation.  The NCC has guidelines and audit checklists as well and is widely adopted. 


Craig Watts, a chicken farmer in North Carolina, indicated that it was a learning curve for major companies to raise NAE flocks. It takes companies time to learn how to raise chickens in the hatcheries without the safety net of antibiotic use.  Staphylococcus, Salmonella, and E. coli infections increase, if hatcheries are not improved and clean.  Mr. Watts indicated that this is the main method to reduce antibiotic use – cleaner hatcheries.


The American Veterinary Medical Association said that to reduce antibiotic use, outside of addressing the frequency and duration of antibiotic administration when necessary, the broilers’ environment should be optimized, kept clean and disinfected between flocks.  Controlling heat, cold, humidity and high ammonia concentrations as well as providing clean feed and water and adequate ventilation are also important standard operating procedures.


When diseased chicks, from unsanitary hatcheries, are transported to farmers, the burden and cost often falls on the farmer.   Companies have improved sanitary practices at hatcheries and now they need to ensure they bear the costs of sick birds as well, and not let this be a financial strain to the individual farmer.


School Food FOCUS and The Pew Charitable Trusts have their take on responsible use of antibiotics in the production of chickens.  They promote the Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (CRAU) standards already mentioned. USDA will verify compliance to CRAU standards. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMA) states that CRAU standards provide attainable and verifiable guidelines. AMA supports the judicious use of antibiotics, limiting use, and having veterinarian oversight, to prevent and control disease in poultry. In 2015 they began approving companies following CRAU.


To meet the requirements of the CRAU standard, a poultry company must be audited.  To ensure adherence to CRAU, audit reports are submitted to School Food Focus. Visit the Focus website to learn more about the CRAU standard.


The following approved companies have been found in conformance with the requirements of the CRAU and with all criteria of their approved quality management systems.  It is by location for some of the facilities with Cargill, Perdue, and Tyson (Pennsylvania plant).


Official Listing for Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use (pdf)


The Veterinary Feed Directive Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule,  (VFD) final rule is now in force as of January, 2017.  It mandates the judicial use of antibiotics for animals.   Producers must obtain veterinary approval prior to using feed containing antibiotics.  There is also a provision involving the veterinarian-client-patient relations (VCPR). Production uses of medically important antibiotics is now illegal.  (Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR)).


How will we, as directors of child nutrition programs, make an impact?  We can indicate our preference for NE3 or CRAU flocks, to help reduce overuse of antibiotics.  We can award extra technical points on a request for proposal for companies who adhere to GAP, CRAU, or National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines.




References Obtained on 2/25/2017



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