Antibiotics to make livestock grow

Many farmers in the United States feed their herds and flocks antibiotics. Not just when the animals are ill. It’s done routinely to make healthy animals grow faster. Fewer antibiotics are fed here in Europe. But when the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is complete, farmers’ antibiotic use might change.

In the States, my fellow blogger Noah Zerbe at Global Food Politics tells us that a curb on routine antibiotic use for livestock is being phased in. You can scroll down his article for a graph of how US antibiotic use has risen in the last decade, for livestock but not for people.

New rules were announced by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week. Noah says, ‘If successful, the FDA’s new rules would help curtail some of the excessive use of antibiotics that has developed in the livestock industry.’ Only some of it, as he points out.

Over here the story is one of more cautious antibiotic use. Antibiotics as growth promoters have been banned in Europe since 2006. So we have real-life data to guide predictions of how things might change Stateside.

For example, 18 months ago Dan Charles at The Salt compared pig farming between Denmark and the Netherlands. He describes how Danish farmers adapted to the ban. They ‘weaned their pigs later, reduced the density of their animals, changed the airflow to minimize disease transmission, and looked for animal breeds that seemed better able to withstand diseases.’ Dutch pig farmers made less change, he says, but of course they’re still bound by the European Union rules.

What now? As you know the TTIP is a hot topic and we’re invited to give opinions tomorrow.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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One Response to Antibiotics to make livestock grow

  1. Pingback: Chicken feed without antibiotics or growth hormones | Science on the Land

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