2 Sisters Food Group has pledged to remove all antibiotics considered important to human health from its poultry supply chain.

Announcing the decision today, the company said it would stop using all antibiotics defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “highest priority critically important” to human health.

2 Sisters has not used third and fourth generation cephalosporins or fluroquinolones – which are considered critically important to human medicine by the WHO – for two years. This latest commitment means it will also exclude the antibiotic class macrolides from its broiler production.

The move comes in the wake of growing global concern that antibiotic use in animal agriculture is contributing to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can spread to humans and reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics for treating dangerous infections.

“As a responsible and forward thinking organisation, we are keen to lead on this increasingly important issue and take a stand which we feel is pragmatic and sensible,” said 2 Sisters CEO Ranjit Singh.

2 Sisters also establishing two trial farms - supervised by veterinary surgeons and independent agricultural experts – that will focus on developing farm techniques and health management practices that reduce the need for antibiotics.

“Our plan is also about replacing antibiotic use with other interventions wherever possible,” explained the group’s agriculture director Michelle Waterman.

“This includes use of vaccinations and changes to husbandry and biosecurity techniques. Our strategy is continually refined through the use of trial locations to see what works best.”

The company’s commitment was welcomed by Food Animal Initiative (FAI) director Ruth Layton, who said the challenge of antimicrobial resistance needed to be met with “thoughtful, urgent and practical actions” by the meat sector.