Consumers are worried about what goes into the food they eat. And rightfully so, if you’re putting it into your body you should know what goes into its body and why. After my post about the truth about hormones in poultry I was asked multiple times to write a post about antibiotics in chickens, so after a good bit of time (sorry!) and research from trusted sources I hope that this blog will help answer your questions about the antibiotics used in the poultry industry.
In a previous post about antibiotics and hormones in beef I discussed how the antibiotics used in animal agriculture medicine are usually not the same ones used in human medicine. This remains true for the poultry industry as well. A few of the antibiotics for humans and livestock are in the same drug class, but the FDA regulates these and establishes proper use levels along with withdrawal times. When used as directed by the FDA they pose no health issues. So there is very little possibility for antibiotic resistance because of being fed to livestock.
Antibiotics are used in the poultry industry to prevent and treat diseases. One common misunderstanding is that antibiotics act as growth promotants, but they do not. In poultry antibiotics simply dramatically reduce the amount of harmful and wasteful bacteria in the gut of a chicken. Antibiotics keep chickens healthy which therefore makes them more efficient in converting feed to energy.
Ray Abner Director of US Poultry Business Unit and Global Strategic Accounts for Phibro explains why antibiotics are helpful, “When poultry encounter harmful pathogens, not only do these bacteria rob nutrients, but much of the chickens’ protein and energy intake must go towards defense mechanisms. This inhibits growth.” By using antibiotics to keep chickens healthy we are aiding in producing more of one of the worlds favorite sources of meat. Also by using antibiotics we are helping keep the poultry industry more sustainable. The University of Georgia did a study to see the impacts of going antibiotic free, ABF, in producing chickens. Their results showed that if 30% of US poultry production went ABF the equivalent of a 1-lane highway that wraps around the earth nearly 3 times, would need to be planted to accommodate all of the extra crops needed, this is because the chickens would be less feed efficient.
One of consumers biggest issues with antibiotics is if the residues from them can be absorbed by humans. This is one thing that the FDA has tested countless times to prove false. Since antibiotics are fed in animals feed (in measured doses) they are then eaten by the animal and stay in their intestinal tract, it never reaches the meat! The antibiotics are eaten and digested like normal food, which is then indirectly used to convert the energy to meat. The antibiotic is not absorbed by the animal and has been proven to not be present in the meat at slaughter.
Since antibiotics have no way to get into the human system, help produce more meat by keeping the bird healthy, and help keep the poultry industry sustainable I believe they are a safe and necessary part of raising commercial poultry. Thank you for checking in to learn the truth about antibiotics in the poultry industry, I hope this helped to ease your mind about antibiotic residue and resistance!