News and analysis on the global poultry
and animal feed industries.
Broilers & Layers / Egg Production
on February 11, 2015

A valuable lesson regarding consumer perceptions and antibiotics

Consumers rate concerns about antibiotic use in poultry above other potential concerns because their physician does.

Veterinarians talking about “judicious use” of antibiotics to protect the health and welfare of poultry and science showing that antimicrobial resistance in nature predates man’s discovery and manufacture of antibiotics are not going to convince U.S. consumers that it is OK to use same antibiotics that are used in human medicine on chickens, according to Richard Kottmeyer, founder and managing director, Strategic.

He told the audience at an industry expert panel discussion, hosted by WATT Global Media and sponsored by DuPont, that the U.S. consumers' tipping point for their attitude on antibiotic usage came when their doctors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started taking steps that affected their access to prescription antibiotics when someone in their family was ill.

The combination of the American Medical Association’s stance against antibiotic use in livestock and poultry and the somewhat more careful approach that many physicians have taken to writing antibiotic prescriptions have had an impact on consumers.

Kottmeyer said that if consumers have to choose between not treating poultry with antibiotics so that these antibiotics still work when used to treat a family member, the chicken will be raised without antibiotics.

Antibiotic use in poultry production in the U.S., particularly antibiotics used in human medicine, is on its way down, not because of regulation, but because of consumer demand, according to Kottmeyer. Egg producers need to identify other consumer concerns that could gain the same type of traction that antibiotic usage has and make sure it understands what the real drivers are of the concern. Yes, it is good to have science on your side, but you have to understand the emotions driving the concerns if you are going to have any hope of dealing with them effectively.

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