The National Pork Board is reiterating the proactive steps the U.S. pork industry has taken to ensure responsible antibiotic use on pig farms. Pork industry leaders say calls by various organizations to end antibiotic use on farms are misguided and would have a negative impact on food safety.
"We understand people are confused about the role of antibiotics in meat production and, unfortunately, recently released reports only add to that confusion," said Jennifer Koeman, DVM, and director of producer and public health at National Pork Board. "It's simple – when you produce healthy livestock, you get safe food. The meat you eat is safe due to Food and Drug Administration rules on antibiotics and U.S. Department of Agriculture testing of meat."
The pork industry has collectively embraced USDA and FDA efforts to phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and, in turn, to limit them to treatment and prevention against the spread of disease. The National Pork Board is implementing a three-point plan of action focused on five research priorities, shaping educational outreach to pig farmers and broadly sharing information with the retail and foodservice industries and pork consumers.
"Pig farmers have an obligation to use medicine responsibly and as needed to treat or prevent illness in pigs," said Koeman. "That's why pig farmers also work closely with veterinarians to decide when and how to use antibiotics to protect a pig's health."
On behalf of more than 60,000 pig farmers across the nation, the National Pork Board is leading the effort and dialogue around responsible antibiotic use, including:
- Establishing a blue ribbon panel on antibiotics, an outcome of the Pork Checkoff's stewardship plan announced this past June. The new, third-party panel includes seven experts with specific experience and knowledge in antibiotic practices or consumer marketing, but who are independent of National Pork Board practices.
- Educating America's pig farmers on new FDA rules for the use of medically important antibiotics (to treat human illness) in feed and water and investing up to $400,000 in education and awareness programs to ensure pig farmers understand and adopt these new guidelines.
- Investing more than $750,000 in new research projects that span five distinct priorities intended to provide data for animal and public health outcomes (pig health/welfare, human health/safety, environmental impact and pork quality).
- Sharing the innovation of today's production practices and efforts to responsibly use antibiotics with food chain partners and other important stakeholders. This past month, meetings were held with animal health companies, packers and processors, and retail and foodservice leadership.
"Our efforts are focused on sharing a story of innovation and excellence in pork production," said Derrick Sleezer, National Pork Board president and a pig farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. "Our farmers are experts in animal care and sustainable farming. And that expertise is needed to maintain our track record of responsible antibiotic use with a goal to protect the health and well-being of people, pigs and the planet."