US use of antibiotics in poultry far greater than in the UK

19-02-2018 | | |
US use of antibiotics in poultry far higher than in the UK. Photo: Koos Groenewold
US use of antibiotics in poultry far higher than in the UK. Photo: Koos Groenewold

Antibiotic use in US poultry production is 3 times higher than the UK and 5 times higher for turkeys, according to a report released by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics.

The statistics, based on mg of active ingredient of antibiotic per kg of Population Correction Unit (mg/kg) shows the US using 52mg/kg for chickens and 479mg/kg for turkeys in the US compared to 17mg/kg and 86mg/kg in the UK.

In order to make the data comparable, the Alliance took into account the size of the different livestock populations and have used the European Medicine Agency’s EMA Population Correct Unit (PCU) as the livestock unit to do this.

It has also used the US Food and Drug Administration published farm antibiotic sales data for 2016, released in December 2017, which for the first time took into account an overall estimated for the breakdown in antibiotic sales by farm animal species. This was due to the requirement for pharmaceutical companies to be required to provide an estimate to the FDA of the species breakdown of their sales.

US sales of medically important antibiotics by farm-animal species in weight of active ingredient (kg) were 508,800 for chickens and 756,620 for turkeys.

OIE study

The report’s findings back a recent study by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which has estimated global farm antibiotic use by continent.

It found use by animal weight to be about 20% lower in Africa than in Europe. However, in the Americas is was about 80% higher than in Europe and in Asia Pacific to be about 190% higher than in Europe, although only five countries reported data from this region.

Globally, scientists estimate that 73% of all antibiotics are used in farm animals, and they forecast use will increase by a further 53% by 2030 if the number of animals continues to grow and farming becomes more intensive.

US view

US Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at the Department for Agriculture Ted McKinney, said at the Oxford Farming Conference last month that he was “sick and tired” of hearing Britain’s concerns about chlorine washed chicken and US food standards.

But Suzi Shingler of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics said: “If Mr McKinney wants something to worry about other than chlorine washed chicken, he might want to turn his attention to the extraordinarily high levels of antibiotics used in US meat production.

Antibiotic Reduction special – explores different areas of animal production that can be optimised to better protect animals, which in turn, diminishes the need for preventative or sub-therapeutic medicine.

Richard Griffiths, British Poultry Council chief executive, said this week that it was vital British standards should drive food security and guide trade.

“Our standards will define our relationship with food production for a generation. We need our standards, and through them our food producers, to deliver food security for the UK.”

Tony Mcdougal Freelance Journalist