July 21, 2003


Livestock Producers In China Moving Towards Animal Products That Are Free From Antibiotics


The animal production industry in China is experiencing a major and comprehensive change in production values, in response to market forces.


Currently, the industry is faced with low prices for its products while struggling to contain the rising costs of animal feed and production.


At the same time, it has to meet the market demand for safe food, in order to regain consumer confidence in animal products.


Also, Chinese exporters of animal products have to overcome the technical barriers and restrictive policies from importing countries.


Thus, out-dated practices that are detrimental to the industry and harmful to the health and well-being of consumers have to be identified and eliminated; in this case, the over-reliance on veterinary drugs in animal production. 


It was reported that 50 percent of total global production of antibiotics were used in clinical treatment for human beings. The other half was used by the animal production industry. Based on the experience of livestock breeding industry, if we use antibiotic as a growth promoter in animal feed for a prolonged period, the number of drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria in the intestines of animals will increase. Under such circumstances, when an animal is slaughtered, the internal and external surfaces of the body will inevitably be contaminated by the content from the intestines.


In other words, the raw pork and chicken meat which we buy from the market are most probably infested with drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria.


Abuses in the use of antibiotics threaten the human body in two ways. Firstly, it is through drug residues. Secondly, it is through the increase in the number of drug-resistant pathogenic bacteria in the product. Both cases will cause the treatment of disease more difficult after a person is infested with pathogenic bacteria.


The former may be solved through the strict control in the dosage of drugs and the timing in which the drugs are supposed to be discontinued.


As for the latter, the only solution is to discontinue the use of drugs entirely. In fact, it is the latter which actually threatens the health of human beings. As the number of drug- resistant pathogenic bacteria increases, the chances of people being infected by these pathogenic bacteria will also be greater.


Furthermore, the cost for the treatment of disease will be comparatively raised. Previously, if a person is infected by pathogenic bacteria such as pneumonia, his sickness will be cured provided he uses the limited spectrum antibiotic which is effective against pneumonia cocci. But it is different now. As the pathogenic bacteria carry multi-antigens, doctors are forced to prescribe from the very beginning of the treatment broad spectrum antibiotic or several types of antibiotics to control the infection.


As a result, it will, on the one hand, extend the course of disease and raise the cost of treatment and on the other hand, it will, due to the natural reaction and cause the number of drug¡§Cresistant pathogenic bacteria in the human body to increase.


According to statistical data, the annual value of broilers produced in the US is US$14 billion. If use of antibiotics is discontinued, prices of broiler will increase by about 2%. 


In 1988, after Sweden and Denmark discontinued the use of antibiotics as additives in the feed for hogs, prices of pork rose by only 3%.


These examples demonstrated that the discontinuance of antibiotic as additives in feed will not be disastrous for the animal production industry. Nor will there be any disruption to market supply. A slight increase in prices is a small price to pay in exchange for the health of consumers.


These experiences have shown us that it is entirely possible to reduce or relinquish the use of antibiotic if we tighten controls over each stage of production; improve the hygienic conditions; try to reduce the chances of livestock being infected by the pathogenic bacteria during each and every stage of growth.


Using the production of pork as an example, we need to provide effective supervision and management for the inoculation and breeding of hogs; and ensure the safety of feed for weaning piglets to growers to finishing stage.


As Chinese producers become more knowledgeable about the various stages of physiological development of each animal, their methods of production will also improve in tandem with advances in science and technology.


Antibiotic free livestock products are set to become a main stream development in the animal production industry in China.

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