Perdue Farms Inc. plans by June to eliminate antibiotics used in chicken it sells as nuggets and strips in supermarkets across the U.S., significantly escalating a nascent industry response to concerns about such use.

Perdue expects the change to roughly triple the no-antibiotic portion of such precooked and seasoned products at U.S. supermarkets. Converting Perdue’s name-brand lines of chicken products will make it the largest grocery-store supplier of poultry raised without antibiotics, the Salisbury, Md. company said.

Farmers and ranchers for decades have administered the drugs not just to treat illnesses but also to stave off disease and speed weight gain. Public-health officials and consumer groups argue this hastens the development of potentially deadly bacteria that antibiotics can’t kill.

Perdue, which supplies poultry to restaurants and food-service operations as well as to retailers, was an early mover among major U.S. meatpackers in curtailing antibiotic use. The third-largest U.S. poultry company by chickens processed, it stopped using antibiotics to help the birds gain weight in 2007.

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