A seminar dedicated to what the poultry industry can expect from antibiotics as growth promoters was one of the outstanding sessions presented on May 20 during the Alltech Symposium.

At least 12 speakers from the U.S., United Kingdom and Brazil gave their vision of what to expect in poultry production, particularly broilers, until the end of the decade with antibiotic-free production at the Alltech Symposium.

Although it is agreed that antibiotic-free broiler production is more emotional than factual, the reality is that producers have to follow what the consumer asks for. In the consumer's eyes, antibiotics used in sub-therapeutic levels as growth promoters have a negative connotation, in spite of the practical advantages.

One of the speakers pointed out that it has been already a 15-year period since the ban of antibiotics in feeds in the EU. This has brought up quite a dramatic change from the operational and consumer point of view. The latter is particularly important since Grampain, the British retail stores in the UK, publicly announced in 1999 the withdrawal of chickens fed with antibiotics as growth promoters.

When talking about their vision of growth promotion, some of the speakers focused on feed-conversion rate and weight gain, as well as how age will result in animals with different efficiencies, but adjusted to what the market asks for. In the last 70 years, most of the gain has been in breast muscle, as chickens have a larger intestine, but a weak physiological structure, such as heart size.

Antibiotics resistance in humans was also discussed. After the ban in the EU, there was a drop in the use of antibiotics used for treatment, but actually not using them in animal production is mainly a consumer preference.

Speakers urged the industry to educate the public to show them that vaccination is not the same as using antibiotics as growth promoters. The industry needs to educate the public that raising an antibiotic-free flock can lead to high mortality, in the first place, and problems with feed conversion, gastrointestinal disorders or stocking density.