Report shows big decrease in antimicrobial use
TUCKER, Ga. — In the U.S. poultry industry’s first-ever report quantifying antimicrobial use on broiler chicken and turkey farms, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association announced results showing dramatic reductions of turkey and broiler chicken antimicrobial use over a five-year timeframe.
As part of its commitment to the transparency and sustainability of a safe food supply, the association said the poultry industry aims to strike a balance between keeping poultry flocks healthy and the responsible use of antimicrobials, especially those medically important to human health.
Under the research direction of Dr. Randall Singer, of Mindwalk Consulting Group, LLC, this report represents a five-year set of data collected from 2013 to 2017 regarding the use of antimicrobials in U.S. broiler chickens and turkeys throughout their lifetime, from hatchery to day of harvest.
It was prepared through a systematic collection of on-farm antimicrobial use data to capture the disease indications and routes of administration through which antimicrobials were given to the poultry.
Given several key differences among broiler chickens and turkeys — namely differences in weight, lifespan, susceptibility to lifetime illness and the number of effective medical therapies available – the data from broiler chickens and turkeys should neither be combined nor compared.
Key changes among broiler chickens over the five-year period show:
• Broiler chickens receiving antimicrobials in the hatchery decreased from 93 percent to 17 percent;
• Hatchery gentamicin use decreased approximately 74 percent;
• Medically important in-feed antimicrobial use in broiler chickens decreased by as much as 95 percent. For example: tetracycline 95 percent, virginiamycin 60 percent;
• Medically important water-soluble antimicrobial use in broiler chickens decreased by as much as 72 percent. For example: penicillin 21 percent, tetracycline 47 percent, sulfonamide 72 percent; and
• There was a documented shift to the use of antimicrobial drugs that are not considered medically important to humans (eg, avilamycin and bacitracin BMD)
Key changes among turkeys over the five-year period show:
• Turkeys receiving antimicrobials in the hatchery decreased from 96 percent to 41 percent;
• Hatchery gentamicin use decreased approximately 42 percent;
• Medically important in-feed antimicrobial use in turkeys decreased: tetracycline 67 percent; and
• Medically important water-soluble antimicrobial use decreased substantially. For example: penicillin 42 percent, tetracycline 28 percent, lincomycin 46 percent, neomycin 49 percent, erythromycin 65 percent;
Antimicrobial use among broiler chickens and turkeys decreased dramatically between 2013 and 2017, and there are a couple of key explanations for this:
• Changes in FDA regulations, which were fully implemented in January 2017, effectively eliminated the use of medically important antimicrobials for production purposes and placed all medically important antimicrobials administered in the feed or water of poultry under veterinary supervision;
• A continued focus by poultry companies on disease prevention, thereby reducing the need for antimicrobials; and
• Improved record-keeping of all antimicrobial administrations, which is a key component of antimicrobial stewardship.
Furthermore, the broiler chicken and turkey industries have increased the production of animals raised without antimicrobials.
Participation in this effort was entirely voluntary. The 2017 data in this report represent more than 7.5 billion chickens (about 90 percent of annual U.S. chicken production by the major companies) and 160 million turkeys (about 80 percent of annual U.S. turkey production by the major companies).
“This research is the first step in determining how antimicrobials are used in the entire poultry production system of the U.S., and to succeed, we need participation from the majority of companies. We couldn’t be more pleased with the response of the poultry industry,” USPOULTRY Vice President of Research, Dr. John Glisson, said.
Glisson cautions, though, that there are still serious bird illnesses including necrotic enteritis, gangrenous dermatitis and colibacillosis for which the poultry industry has few effective interventions. And when birds get sick from these diseases, they must receive therapy. He added that “driving good antimicrobial stewardship in poultry, as opposed to simple documentation of reduced use, is our end goal for the best outcomes for both the people and the poultry.”
Moving forward in 2019, the association said Singer will continue the annual collection of data from the broiler chicken and turkey industries and will begin collecting data from the U.S. table egg industry.
Glisson anticipates this new data will provide greater clarity about antimicrobial use in individual flocks, stating, “We expect even more detailed data on flock antimicrobial usage and record-keeping in the years ahead, which thoroughly supports USPOULTRY efforts to ensure proper stewardship of medications.”
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