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Antibiotic Rules Shrink Pork ‘Toolbox’

The Pork Industry will adapt to new federal rules on the use of antibiotics in livestock production, speakers at the World Pork Expo said in Des Moines, Iowa Thursday, but it will come at a cost.

On Tuesday of this week, the White House held a “Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship” with 150 industry stakeholders and the Food and Drug Administration released its final rule to “promote judicious use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.” By 2016, antibiotics used in human medicine that are also given to livestock in feed or water must be supervised by a licensed veterinarian. And they can be used only to treat, control or prevent illness, not to promote growth.

Many antibiotics used in meat production aren’t used in human medicine, Richard Raymond, a medical doctor who served as USDA undersecretary for food safety in the Bush Administration, told contributors to the National Pork Producers Association’s Strategic Investment Program.

Most antibiotic resistant bacteria that pose a threat to humans have developed in hospitals and other medical settings, Raymond said. Only 18% of the antibiotics used in meat production are also used in human medicine, he said.

Still, not using some of those 18% in feed for growth promotion will have an effect on performance, said Scott Stehlik, a veterinarian who heads technical operations for The Maschoffs. 

“Quite frankly, we’re taking away another tool from the toolbox,” Stehlik said.

He expects the industry to see a 1% to 1.5% hit to feed conversion and higher mortality rates.

“One of my fears is that this is going to take an administrative army” to meet FDA requirements, he said.

NPPC staffers also say the new rules could hit producers who are much smaller than The Maschoffs, an Illinois-based hog business that ranked third in Successful Farming magazine’s list of the nation’s largest producers, the Pork Powerhouses. It had 218,000 sows in 2014 and operates in nine states. There is concern that the rules, which don’t exempt small operations, could drive even more consolidation in the industry. NPPC will be working to educate producers on the FDA requirements. 

Still, both Stehlik and Raymond said they believe enforcement of the new rule will be based on science, not politics. 

“They want this to work without being overly burdensome,” Stehlik said of the FDA.

Stehlik said he believes the swine industry will adapt to the new rules because it’s creative, resilient and nimble.  


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