August 6, 2019


USPOULTRY releases first-ever report of antimicrobial use in US broiler chickens and turkeys


The U.S. Poultry & Egg Association has released the US poultry industry's first-ever report quantifying antimicrobial use on broiler chicken and turkey farms.


The new report shows dramatic reductions of turkey and broiler chicken antimicrobial use over a five-year timeframe. 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.


Under the research direction of Dr. Randall Singer, DVM, PhD, of Mindwalk Consulting Group, LLC, the report represents data collected from 2013 to 2017 regarding the use of antimicrobials in US broiler chickens and turkeys throughout their lifetime, from hatchery to day of harvest. It was prepared through a systematic collection of on-farm antimicrobial use data to capture the disease indications and routes of administration through which antimicrobials were given to the poultry.


Given several key differences among broiler chickens and turkeys - namely differences in weight, life span, susceptibility to lifetime illness and the number of effective medical therapies available - the data from broiler chickens and turkeys should neither be combined nor compared.


Key changes among broiler chickens over the five-year period show: Broiler chickens receiving antimicrobials in the hatchery decreased from 93% to 17%; Hatchery gentamicin use decreased about 74%; Medically important in-feed antimicrobial use in broiler chickens decreased by as much as 95%. For example: tetracycline 95%,virginiamycin 60%; Medically important water-soluble antimicrobial use in broiler chickens decreased by as much as 72%. For example: penicillin 21%, tetracycline 47%, sulfonamide 72%; a shift to the use of antimicrobial drugs that are not considered medically important to humans (for e.g., avilamycin and bacitracin BMD).


Key changes among turkeys over the five-year period show: Turkeys receiving antimicrobials in the hatchery decreased from 96% to 41%; Hatchery gentamicin use decreased about 42%; Medically important in-feed antimicrobial use in turkeys decreased: tetracycline 67%; Medically important water-soluble antimicrobial use decreased substantially. For example: penicillin 42%, tetracycline 28%, lincomycin 46%, neomycin 49%, erythromycin 65%.


Some key explanations for the dramatic decrease in antimicrobial use among broiler chickens and turkeys between 2013 and 2017 are: Changes in FDA regulations, which were fully implemented in January 2017, effectively eliminated the use of medically important antimicrobials for production purposes and placed all medically important antimicrobials administered in the feed or water of poultry under veterinary supervision; A continued focus by poultry companies on disease prevention, thereby reducing the need for antimicrobials; Improved record-keeping of all antimicrobial administrations, which is a key component of antimicrobial stewardship.


However, as pointed out by USPOULTRY vice president of Research, Dr. John Glisson, DVM, MAM, PhD, there are still serious bird illnesses (for e.g., necrotic enteritis, gangrenous dermatitis and colibacillosis) for which the poultry industry has few effective interventions. And when birds get sick from these diseases, they must receive therapy. He confirms that "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."


Moving forward in 2019, Dr. Singer will continue the annual collection of data from the broiler chicken and turkey industries and will begin collecting data from the US table egg industry. Glisson anticipates this new data will provide greater clarity about antimicrobial use in individual flocks, stating, "We expect even more detailed data on flock antimicrobial usage and record-keeping in the years ahead, which thoroughly supports USPOULTRY efforts to ensure proper stewardship of medications."


Survey construction involved the assistance from the National Chicken Council and the National Turkey Federation, who also assisted in encouraging member participation. USDA:APHIS:VS:CEAH was also included in the process and served as official auditors of the data, analysis and reporting.


The full report can be viewed at: