Encouraging news for antimicrobial drug use in U.S. poultry production

August 16, 2019

VBS Professor Randy Singer has quantified antimicrobial use in U.S. poultry production from 2013-2017. His recently-released report was supported by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Poultry & Egg Association (USPOUTLRY). Over 90% of annual broiler chicken production and 80% of annual turkey production in the U.S. are represented in the data set for 2017. In real numbers, the data for 2017 represent more than 7.5 billion chickens and 164 million turkeys slaughtered. 

Overall, there were major reductions in the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs over the 5-year period. Prof. Singer has identified several reasons for the downturn in antimicrobial use, which include changes in FDA regulations,; a continued focus by the poultry industry on disease prevention measures such as hygiene practices, nutrition, and vaccine use; and a shift to raising animals without the use of antimicrobial drugs.

There is still a need for antimicrobial agents for therapeutic purposes in poultry production, as some of the most important diseases in poultry have alternate effective treatments. Singer concludes that, "While a reduction in antimicrobial use may be an important indicator of improved stewardship, reducing the need for antimicrobials through improved disease prevention should be considered a more holistic indicator of overall flock health and optimal antimicrobial use."