Raising Animals Without Antibiotics: U.S. Producer and Veterinarian Experiences and Opinions

Ensuring the safety, health, and overall well-being of animals raised for food is both an ethical obligation and a critical component of providing safe food products. The use of antibiotics for maintaining animal health has come under scrutiny in recent years due to the rise of antibiotic resistance globally. Some U.S. producers, especially in the poultry industry, have responded by eliminating their antibiotic use. The number of animals raised without antibiotics (RWA) is growing in the U.S., but there are concerns that RWA practices might negatively impact animal health and welfare. Therefore, the objective of this study was to survey U.S. veterinarians and producers about their experiences and opinions regarding RWA production. Veterinarians, farmers, ranchers, producers, and other stakeholders involved in raising broilers, turkeys, swine, beef cattle or dairy cattle were surveyed. Of the 565 completed responses received, 442 self-reported as practicing veterinarians or producers. Just over half of respondents reported having past or current experience with RWA programs. The main indicated reasons for raising animals without antibiotics were market driven; switching to RWA production was less commonly made for health-related reasons, such as to reduce antibiotic resistance or to improve animal health and welfare. Although respondents felt that RWA production has negative impacts on animal health and welfare, they overwhelmingly (>70%) indicated that the customer (retailer/restaurant/food service) believes that animal and health welfare will be significantly improved. Veterinarians and producers indicated that RWA programs will increase production costs with questionable effect on meat, egg or dairy consumer demand. Many respondents felt that there are times when the RWA label takes priority over animal health and welfare. Respondents generally felt that there was a need for increased auditing/assessment of animal health and welfare in RWA systems.

Singer RS, Porter LJ, Thomson DU, Gage M, Beaudoin A, Wishnie JK. Raising animals without antibiotics: U.S. producer and veterinarian experiences and opinions. Front Vet Sci. 2019 Dec. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00452