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Tyson plans to forgo antibiotics in fresh chickens

Policy change is consumer-driven

NEW YORK -- Tyson Foods will no longer use antibiotics to raise chicken that is sold fresh in stores and will launch a $70 million advertising campaign to tout the shift, the nation's largest meat producer said yesterday.

The company said fresh chicken raised without antibiotics was shipped to stores Monday and will be sold beginning this week in packaging that emphasizes that there are no artificial ingredients.

"We're providing mainstream consumers with products they want," Tyson chief executive Richard L. Bond said.

Consumers will have to pay slightly more for the privilege, however.

Tyson senior vice president Dave Hogberg declined to specify how much of a price increase shoppers will see, but said it would be "below the cost consumers say they're willing to pay."

He added that competitors charge about $1.50 to $2 per pound more for boneless, skinless, chicken breast without antibiotics and that the price hike for Tyson's antibiotic-free chicken would be less than $1 per pound.

Tyson, the country's second-largest chicken producer, will also be spending more to make the switch to raising the antibiotic-free chickens. Hogberg said Tyson is converting 20 -- or slightly fewer than half -- of its production facilities to produce the products. He declined to specify how much the move is costing.

Bond, however, said the switch would not impact earnings short-term.

Instead, he said earnings and sales would both benefit from the move since it could increase demand for chicken and potentially generate additional sales on other Tyson products.