Animal antibiotics have been used by farmers for decades to make food safer, prevent animal suffering and lessen the burden on our planet. However, concern about human antibiotic resistance is inspiring scrutiny of all uses of antibiotics.
“Antibiotic resistance and its connection to use of antibiotics in humans and animals is a complex issue,” said Dr. Leah Dorman, a veterinarian and member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. Animal Health Association and National Institute for Animal Agriculture. “The matter of antibiotic resistance has no single cause and no single solution, so we must work together and rely upon the best available science to inform our decisions.”
Just as medical doctors are working to reduce antibiotic use in humans, veterinarians and farmers are making changes to limit the use of antibiotics on the farm. The goal in both cases is to reduce the possibility that antibiotic use creates a risk, whether for humans or animals.
“Regardless of the known level of risk, it is clearly in everyone’s best interest to ensure responsible use of antibiotics,” said Dorman, who is also the director of food integrity and consumer engagement for Phibro Animal Health Corp.
When used responsibly, animal antibiotics offer benefits for human health, animal health, the environment and your wallet.
What it means for families
Antibiotics help to make the food you buy safer by reducing bacteria in the food supply and ensuring healthier animals on the farm. Responsible use of antibiotics by doctors and patients, as well as by veterinarians and farmers, helps reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance.
What it means for animals
Antibiotics are used in animals for the same reason they are used in people – to treat or prevent diseases that cause pain and suffering. When an animal is sick with a bacterial infection, treating it with antibiotics is the right thing to do, Dorman said.
What it means for the environment
Responsible use of antibiotics helps keep animals and the environment healthy because sick animals use more natural resources and have a larger environmental impact than healthy animals. When left untreated, sick animals grow more slowly, requiring more food and water. This means more grain, grass or hay must be grown for feed, requiring more fertilizer, water and acres of land.
What it means for your wallet
Keeping animals healthy, the goal of antibiotic use on the farm, has the added benefit of making food more affordable because healthy animals consume less food and water, keeping costs down. More consumers are able to afford meat, dairy products and eggs when farmers are able to maintain the health of their animals.
Learn more about the benefits of antibiotic use on the farm at animalantibiotics.org.