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Growth-promoting antibiotics a "financial loser"

by 5m Editor
4 January 2007, at 1:49am

WASHINGTON - Contrary to conventional wisdom the use of growth-promoting antibiotics in chicken feed is a financial loser for poultry producers, says the Keep Antibiotics Working group. This comes in response to the publication of an economic study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Using data from poultry giant Perdue, the researchers found that antibiotics slightly accelerated chicken growth, but that the benefit was offset by the cost of purchasing antibiotics, with the total cost rising by about one penny per chicken.

The Johns Hopkins study is in line with a 2002 study by researchers at Kansas State University showing that the use of growth-promoting antibiotics provided no economic benefits during the "finishing" stage of hog production, when weaned pigs are grown to market-weight.

"We have never believed that shaving a few pennies off production costs justified the erosion of our valuable arsenal of antibiotics," said Richard Wood, Steering Committee Chair of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition (KAW). "But the fact that in today's poultry operations, growth promoting antibiotics don't even reduce costs just strengthens the case for eliminating them. It doesn't make sense -- or cents -- to continue this practice."

Perdue and three other large poultry producers -- Tyson, Gold Kist, and Foster Farms -- say they no longer use antibiotics to promote growth. In addition, companies such as McDonald's and Compass Group, one of the largest contract food service companies in North America, have adopted policies that prohibit the purchase of certain meats if the animals were given antibiotics important in human medicine to accelerate their growth.

Medical and public health experts have long decried the use of growth promoting antibiotics (GPAs) as an important cause of antibiotic-resistant infections. Europe, Scandinavia and Australia has banned the use of growth promoting antibiotics for this reason.

Further information

The study, "Growth Promoting Antibiotics in Food Animal Production: An Economic Analysis," is published in the January-February issue of Public Health Reports.

It was written by Jay P. Graham, MBA, MPH, John J. Boland, PhD, and Ellen Silbergeld, PhD, at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health.

ThePoultrySite News Desk

5m Editor