Consumer interest in meat and poultry products that have been produced either without the use of antibiotics or with restricted antibiotic use has increased in recent years. Europe was the first major market where restricted use of antibiotics in meat and poultry production was instituted, and producers in other regions can learn something about cost impacts that have been experienced in the EU.

EU regulations increase growing costs

The ban of antibiotic growth promoters in food producing poultry and livestock in the EU has resulted in a reduction in the total use of antibiotics in animal production in Europe, Dominique Chavette, international poultry market manager, Invivo USA, reported. He told the audience at the 2016 FIAAP Animal Nutrition Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 29, 2016, that the economic impact of this ban was estimated to have increased the cost of producing a kilogram of live broiler by EUR0.008 (US$0.009) in 2011 by Peter van Horne, poultry economist, Wageningen University. 

In this analysis, the additional costs of all EU legislations on the cost of producing live broilers were estimated to be EUR0.0479 (US$0.0536) per kilogram, which represents around a 5 percent increase in total cost. The ban on use of antibiotic growth promoters was estimated to represent 16 percent of this total, around EUR0.008 per kilogram of live weight.

The ban on feeding genetically modified grains (GMO) was estimated to be EUR0.012 per kilogram of live weight, which was around 25 percent of the total cost of all EU regulations affecting the feeding of poultry. The ban on use meat and bone meal in broiler feeds in the EU was estimated to be EUR0.008 per kilogram of live weight, which is just as costly as the antibiotic growth promoter ban.

Antibiotic alternatives help performance

Chavette discussed the management practices and nutritional additives that European broiler producers have tried to offset the performance lost due to the antibiotic growth promoter ban. On farm management activities such as enhanced biosecurity, vaccines, and drinking water treatments. Hatchery enhancements include grading and disinfection of hatching eggs and single stage incubation. Alternative feed ingredients that have been included in poultry rations to help improve bird performance include exogenous enzymes, organic acids, prebiotics, probiotics, herbs and etheric oils.

These enhanced farm and hatchery management practices and alternative feed ingredients have helped, but they have not offset all of the lost performance due to the antibiotic growth promoter bans and growing costs are still estimated to have increased because of the ban.