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Anim Biotechnol. 2006;17(2):195-205.

Health management with reduced antibiotic use - the U.S. experience.

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Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.


Since World War II the use of antimicrobial products associated with food animal production has increased. Antimicrobials along with evolving production practices have significantly increased throughput, animal welfare, and improved health. Concerns surrounding the growing significance of emerging and in some cases rapidly disseminating antibiotic (antimicrobial) resistant bacterial pathogens among human and livestock populations has stimulated a reassessment of this application. The negative publicity has led many consumers and activist groups to believe that protein derived from food animals grown in the absence of those drugs is safer than products derived from the conventionally reared. There is a general fear that antimicrobial usage in agriculture threatens the sustainability of human therapeutic agents and the public wellbeing. The issue has gradually emerged from "fringe group paranoia" to mainstream - finally impacting consumer choices. Antimicrobial resistance concerns have stimulated a significant reaction by the US animal agriculture industry. Numerous pig production entities, large and small, have attempted to create additional pork product value by developing niche marketing opportunities. Thus far most of the subtherapeutic in-feed antimicrobial reduction has been voluntary in the US. Two production areas have developed where reduced usage occurs. First is the growth of antibiotic free production (ABF) and second is an increased use of treatment levels which avoids subtherapeutic criticism. The bulk of this article is directed at new production practices, pig health management, disease elimination, and biosecurity efforts that result from early industry attempts at reduced or excluded antimicrobial pig production. Raising antimicrobial (antibiotic) free (ABF) pork from birth is challenging for a variety of reasons. Some of these challenges can be cost effectively dealt with while others are difficult if not impossible to control in modern production environments. Healthy pig production is essential for sustainable ABF operations.

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