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Agricultural Policy Review

Abstract

Antimicrobial drugs are commonly used for animals raised in food production for treatment, control, and prevention of disease as well as growth promotion or increased feed efficiency in many production systems. A recent report from the USDA Economic Research Service (Sneeringer et al. 2015) indicates that the share of hogs, broilers, and beef cattle that have been raised without the use of antibiotics has increased, although a significant share of animals do receive antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention (e.g., 59 percent of finishing hogs in 2009 and 52 percent of broilers in 2011). Furthermore, many producers reported that they did not know about their use of antibiotics, particularly those producing under contract (based on data from the USDA Agricultural Resource Management Survey, Sneeringer et al. 2015). The advantages of using antimicrobials in production include prevention of mortality and morbidity especially for young animals (e.g., weaning pigs), reduced input costs (improved feed efficiency), and reduced variation in growth and final product. However, concerns have been raised that the extent of antibiotic use in animal production has the potential to promote the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that can affect human health through exposure in food and the environment and limit the important and critical benefits of drugs used to treat and protect human health. Consumer groups and public health proponents have pushed for the food animal production industry to restrict antimicrobial use.

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