Danish food maker sees strong demand for probiotics to replace antibiotics in meat

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (Reuters) — Food ingredients maker Chr. Hansen is seeing strong demand for probiotics for animals as farmers and restaurant chains come under growing pressure to use fewer antibiotics in the food chain, its chief executive officer said.

Scientists warn that the routine use of antibiotics in animals is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” posing a major threat to human health.

“There is a strong underlying driver from consumers and investors that wants the (meat) industry to reduce antibiotics so there is a long-term underlying very positive trend,” Chr. Hansen CEO Cees de Jong said.

Chr. Hansen, whose main business produces enzymes and bacteria for the dairy, wine and meat industries, is also one of the world’s top three producers of probiotics for animals, alongside DuPont and Lallemand. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that can help improve health.

One investor initiative is the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return Initiative, which is campaigning to convince food companies to reduce the use of antibiotics in the meat they serve.

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De Jong said Chr. Hansen would soon launch a new product in the U.S. poultry market aimed at replacing antibiotics “and still get a very healthy population of birds that grow very well or even better from the same amount of feed.”

Animal health products, including probiotics for animals, were the key driver of a 14 percent rise in revenue growth, excluding acquisitions, in the company’s health and nutrition division in the third quarter, de Jong said.

“We are in the lucky situation that our technology basis is very much aligned with today’s mega-trends where consumers become more and more informed and they want natural solutions.”

Chr. Hansen bought U.S. firm Nutrition Physiology Company last year to expand into probiotics that can be used as alternatives to antibiotics in meat.

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