More than just an antibiotic reduction target

Graeme Dear British Poultry Council
Photo: Michael Zoeter
Photo: Michael Zoeter

With poultry being half the meat eaten in the country, the British poultry meat industry’s Antibiotic Stewardship is playing a crucial role in delivering good bird health and welfare; ensuring responsible use of antibiotics, safeguarding the efficacy of antibiotics, and helping produce food consumers trust.

Our farmers and veterinarians need antibiotics in their toolbox to protect the health and welfare of birds. Delivering excellence in bird health and welfare is the foundation of responsible use of antibiotics and is about so much more than reduction targets.

Zero antibiotic use is not sustainable

Zero use is neither ethical nor sustainable as it goes against a farmer’s duty to address any health and welfare issues. Since 2012, the British Poultry Council’s Antibiotic Stewardship has led the way in understanding the sector’s use of antibiotics and delivered an 80.2% reduction in the overall use of antibiotics as well as an 82.6% reduction in the use of Critically Important Antibiotics (CIAs) for human health.

Antibiotic levels will fluctuate

In 2018, our year-on-year use increased by 12.4% as compared to 2017 as a result of seasonal illness during the winter and spring. We achieved a 19% reduction in year-on-year usage of CIAs. Having reached a low level of usage, it is inevitable that our annual figure will fluctuate up and down in response to the challenges we face during that period. What is key is that we continue to be open and honest about the reasons behind these fluctuations and what we are doing to mitigate them in the future.

Preserve the efficacy of our antibiotics

The British poultry meat sector stands committed to upholding the UK’s position at the forefront of international efforts to keep antibiotics effective for future generations and tackling antimicrobial resistance. UK poultry meat producers have stopped all preventative treatments and the highest priority antibiotics that are critically important for humans are used only as a ‘last resort’ for chickens and turkeys. The sector is under the Government-approved Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance species-specific sector targets, so our approach is working. Through more coordinated action between poultry farmers, veterinarians, producers as well as policy makers at local, regional, national and global levels, we will continue to preserve the efficacy of our antibiotics and contribute to turning the tide against ­antimicrobial resistance.