Pigs like these are treated with antibiotics when they are ill (Photo by
Kathy Dixon, Virginia Farm Bureau).
Opponents of antibiotic use in livestock say the drugs are overused and abused.
But a recent study conducted by
shows that antibiotic use in livestock production is “wildly overestimated.” Kansas State University
Using data from a
2006 U.S. Department of Agriculture swine survey and a 2009 survey of swine veterinarians, KSU found that annually about 1.6 million pounds of antibiotics are used in pork production for growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention. By contrast, a 2001 report, “Hogging It,” from the Union of Concerned Scientists claimed that 10.3 million pounds a year are used.
National Pork Producers Council President R.C. Hunt said the UCS report should have been titled “Fabricating It.”
“Pork producers do not overuse antibiotics, Hunt said. “We work with veterinarians to carefully consider if antibiotics are necessary and which ones to use.”
The KSU study, which was published in the March issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, found that 2.8 million pounds of antibiotics were used for growth promotion/nutritional efficiency, disease prevention and disease treatment. That amount is 368 percent less than the amount asserted by UCS for just growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention.
“If we have to treat every single animal with antibiotics, it’s not cost-effective for our business,” Smith said. Bottles of animal antibiotics can range in price from $300 to $1,600 apiece.
Farmers treat their animals with medication the way parents treat sick children. If children need medication, parents give it to them. Some doctors might over-prescribe antibiotics, but that doesn’t mean the tools shouldn’t be available.
Likewise, farmers should be allowed to use animal antibiotics for treating livestock. Taking them away could cripple the industry and limit our healthy meat supply.