Antibiotic use in the United States is commonplace in the nation’s barns and feedlots as growers seek to prevent disease in poultry and pigs and to help them grow faster. But this practice encourages the growth of resistant bacteria that move up the food chain and eventually spawn human infections – many of which are no longer treatable.

Regulating Antibiotic Use in Food Animals

Recognizing the serious threat posed by antibiotic overuse in animals, the European Union banned antibiotics as growth promoters in 1998 – only allowing their use for the treatment of sick animals in 2006. The United States banned medically-important antibiotics for the use of growth promotion and feed efficiency in 2017.

Researchers at CDDEP have been instrumental in clarifying the role of antibiotic use in farm animals in drug-resistant infections in humans, and economic policies to encourage sustainable use of antibiotics in the animal industry.

Monitoring Antibiotics Used in Animal Agriculture

A CDDEP study in Science estimates that globally, more than 130,000 tons of antibiotics were used in animals in 2013. This number is projected to surpass 200,000 tons by 2030.

Three interventions could together reduce global antibiotic use in farm animals by up to 80 percent:

  • Regulations capping the use of antibiotics in farm animals, at 50 mg per PCU per year, could achieve a 64 percent reduction in consumption.
  • Reduction in global meat intake, to the equivalent of one fast-food burger per person per day, could reduce antibiotic consumption in animals by 66 percent.
  • A 50 percent user fee on the price of veterinary antibiotics could reduce this consumption by 31 percent while generating revenues of US $ 1.7 billion to $4.6 billion per year.