Report: Farmers are still using too many antibiotics in pigs

DES MOINES — A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council says hog farmers aren’t doing enough to cut the use of antibiotics in pigs.

Report author David Wallinga says 37% of the antibiotics that are given to livestock go to pigs, drugs that are also critical to human health.

Willinga says new restrictions, in effect since January of 2017, prohibit antibiotic use for growth promotion.

“Regardless, they’re using these antibiotics now the same way they were before,” Wallinga says. “They’re using them at low doses, routinely, added to feed or drinking water and oftentimes when there’s no sick animals present.”

The report says antibiotic use in pork production continues to threaten the critical drugs’ effectiveness in people. That’s because low-dose, routine use allows bacteria to develop resistance.

Tom Marsteller, with Des Moines-based Kemin Industries, says consumer demand as well as changes to government rules about using antibiotics in livestock are driving producers to other treatments.

“The end result is better stewardship of our antibiotic use, use when necessary, when the animals are sick and need the antibiotics,” Marsteller says, “but that means then we’ll use less antibiotics in total, which then should be good for animal health and human health long-term.”

The report cited Denmark and the Netherlands as examples of places that have drastically reduced reliance on antibiotics in pork production by setting and meeting goals.

The report urges consumers to continue pressuring restaurants and grocery stores to offer meat raised without antibiotics.

Several animal health companies are promoting alternatives to antibiotics, including at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, which concluded on Friday.

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