| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES Feb 9 Sanderson Farms Inc
investors on Thursday will vote on a shareholder proposal
requesting the third-largest U.S. poultry producer phase out the
use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion and
Sanderson is the only large U.S. chicken producer that has
not made a commitment to limit its use of those drugs, as public
health experts raise the alarm about the link between farm use
of antibiotics and the rise of human infections from
drug-resistant bacteria, also known as "superbugs."
Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), a major proxy
advisory firm, recommended investors vote for the proposal,
saying industry and regulatory trends are moving toward
antibiotic-free chicken production. ISS also said Sanderson is
lagging its peers and faces reputational and regulatory risks as
Sanderson has recommended a vote against the proposal, filed
by shareholder activist group As You Sow on behalf of the Gun
Denhart Living Trust and other investors.
The company says it does not use antibiotics for growth
promotion but that it does use them to prevent disease in its
Sanderson on Jan. 24 sent a letter to shareholders urging
them to vote against the proposal, or to change their vote to a
"We have been successful in marketing our company as a
low-cost producer of quality, wholesome and safe poultry
products," the company said in the shareholder letter.
"We believe some producers and restaurants have introduced
antibiotic-free chicken in part to gain a marketing advantage by
attempting to sell what they describe as a premium chicken
product, for significantly higher prices," the company said.
Sanderson Farms added that its customers are not demanding
antibiotic-free chicken and that very little of the product is
sold in the customer markets it participates in.
Sanderson Farms in its proxy said it uses two antibiotics
considered "highly important" to fighting infections in humans -
gentamicin and virginiamycin.
Tyson Foods Inc, the nation's largest chicken
producer, in 2015 removed gentamicin from company hatcheries.
More than 70 percent of medically important antibiotics in
the United States are sold for livestock use. Scientists have
warned that the routine use of antibiotics to promote growth and
prevent illness in healthy farms animals contributes to the rise
of dangerous, human "superbug" infections, which kill at least
23,000 Americans each year and pose a significant threat to
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill