New York (CNN) — Perdue believes it has a clever way to combat criticism about chicken production: sell humans practically the same food it feeds its chickens.
The company has created “Chix Mix,” a new snack that is “made from most of the same ingredients” that’s in the company’s chicken feed.
The stunt promotes Perdue’s vegetarian and antibiotic-free chicken feed, because the company said in a release that consumers have become “increasingly interested in the health and quality of the foods they eat.”
Chix Mix likely isn’t going to become a revenue driver for the 103-year-old brand. Instead, Chix Mix is designed as a marketing opportunity as the industry faces controversy about antibiotics in chicken feed and treatment of its animals.
Perdue’s chicken feed contains grains, primarily consisting of corn and soybeans and is mixed with vitamins, minerals and amino acids to “ensure a nutritionally balanced diet,” according to its website. Unlike some of its competitors, Perdue does not use antibiotics in its the vast majority of its chicken feed.
Chix Mix is similar: The snack contains corn, wheat puffs and edamame, but with a dash of barbecue spices “just for humans,” a release said. Humans can order the limited-edition snack for free on November 17 at 12:00 pm ET.
In 2014, Perdue removed “routine use of all human antibiotics” amid concerns that they could be putting human health at risk. Other chicken producers, like Tyson Foods, enacted similar policies around the same time.
The food industry had been under pressure from consumers and public safety advocates to come up with alternative ways to keep poultry healthy. The use of antibiotics to treat sick chickens, making the medicine less effective in humans, raised concerns about contributing to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.
However, the removal of human antibiotics hasn’t been a successful initiative for Tyson — a fact that Perdue notes on the Chix Mix site with a veiled knock at its “biggest competitor” without specifically naming them.
Tyson, the country’s largest poultry producer, recently announced that it will once again use certain antibiotics in its chickens, eight years after it announced plans to ditch the drugs in some of its production and slapped a “no antibiotics ever” label on its packaging.
The company said the antibiotics it plans to use in chicken production are not important to the treatment of humans. About half of US poultry farmers use some form of antibiotics to help keep chickens healthy, it also noted.
In many chicken farms, the animals are raised in crowded and unsanitary conditions and can be prone to disease. Perdue’s release pointedly notes that its chickens “live in clean environments, have places to perch and plenty of room to move, all of which contribute to them staying healthy.”
Packaging for Tyson chickens will begin using a “no antibiotics important to human medicine” label by the end of this year. That standard, recognized by the USDA and the World Health Organization, allows for the use of antibiotics that are not crucial to the treatment of human diseases.
For Perdue, offering Chix Mix is a way to partially remind people of Tyson’s change as they begin to see its rival’s new antibiotic label.
“We believe you are what you eat, and at a critical point in time when competitors are going back to using preventative antibiotics, we want to reinforce our commitment to feeding our chickens, and your family, clean food,” said David Zucker, executive vice president of marketing at Perdue, in the Chix Mix press release.