TUCKER, Ga. – US Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY) unveiled the first industry report quantifying antimicrobial use on broiler chicken and turkey farms.

According to USPOULTRY findings, broiler chicken and turkey antimicrobial use has seen dramatic reductions over a five-year timeline.

“As part of its commitment to the transparency and sustainability of a safe food supply, 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,” USPOULTRY said in the release.

Randall Singer, DVM, Ph.D., of Mindwalk Consulting Group L.L.C. led the research on the report. Mr. Singer looked over a five-year data set collected from 2013 to 2017 regarding the use of antimicrobials in broiler chickens and turkeys in the U.S. during their lifetime. The study collected on-farm antimicrobial use data to capture the disease indications and routes of administration for poultry.

USPOULTRY said that the data from broiler chickens and turkey was not combined or compared because the difference in weight, life span, susceptibility to lifetime illness and the number of effective medical therapies available.

The report outlined the statistical changes seen by broiler chickens over the past five years. Some of the conclusions included:

  • Broiler chickens receiving antimicrobials in the hatchery decreased from 93% to 17%;
  • Hatchery gentamicin use decreased approximately 74%;
  • Medically important in-feed antimicrobial use in broiler chickens decreased by as much as 95%. For example: tetracycline declined 95% and virginiamycin dropped 60%;
  • Medically important water-soluble antimicrobial use in broiler chickens decreased by as much as 72%. For example: penicillin declined 21%, tetracycline 47% and sulfonamide 72%, and
  • There was a documented shift to the use of antimicrobial drugs that are not considered medically important to humans (e.g., avilamycin and bacitracin methylenedisalicyclate).
  • Turkeys receiving antimicrobials in the hatchery decreased from 96% to 41%;
  • Hatchery gentamicin use decreased approximately 42%;
  • Medically important in-feed antimicrobial use in turkeys decreased, with tetracycline dropping 67%, and
  • Medically important water-soluble antimicrobial use decreased substantially. For example: penicillin 42%, tetracycline 28%, lincomycin 46%, neomycin 49% and erythromycin 65%.

USPOULTRY also noted that the decline in antimicrobial use was due to changes by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration regulations, which were fully implemented in Jan. 2017 that effectively eliminated the use of medically important antimicrobials for production purposes. All antimicrobial administered in feed or water of poultry now goes under veterinary supervision.

The group also mentioned that poultry companies need to continue to focus on disease prevention to reduce antimicrobials and improve record-keeping of all antimicrobial administrations.

Although participation in this report was voluntary, USPOULTRY said that it received 90% of the 2017 U.S. chicken production from major companies (7.5 billion chickens) and 80% of the 2017 US turkey production from major companies (160 million turkeys).

“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," said John Glisson, DVM, vice-president of research for USPOULTRY. "We couldn’t be more pleased with the response of the poultry industry."

Mr. Glisson also said that there are still serious bird illnesses to be aware of like, necrotic enteritis, gangrenous dermatitis and colibacillosis, which have few effective interventions. He said, “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.”

USPOULTRY and Mr. Singer plan to continue the annual collection of the data for both broiler chickens and turkey and will begin collecting information from the U.S. table egg industry.

The full report is available here.