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Broilers & Layers / Antibiotic-Free Meat
AI-Northern Ireland
Yurii Bukhanovskyi, Bigstock
on December 18, 2017

The real costs of antibiotic-free, slow-growing broilers

An economist quantified the impact of the current antibiotic-free trend and emerging slower growing broiler movement on the chicken industry and environment.

A future with only antibiotic-free and slow-growing broilers would be harder on the environment and the economy.

In a presentation at the 2017 Chicken Marketing Summit, Dr. Matt Salois, director of global scientific affairs and policy for Elanco, outlined the consequences of farmers moving from conventional practices to no antibiotics ever or slower growing broiler production. Salois spoke on July 17 at the event held in Asheville, North Carolina.

Read the entire report about the true impact of antibiotic-free, slow-growing broilers exclusively in the December issue of WATT PoultryUSA

If standardized, the practices would raise the number of birds needed to feed the same number of people, and lead to the consumption of more natural resources and creation of more pollution.

No antibiotics ever

In a period of eight years, the percentage of broilers raised without antibiotics skyrocketed. According to AgriStats data, 42 percent of the U.S. broiler market was raised without antibiotics in May 2017. In April 2010, far less than 5 percent of the market was raised without antibiotics.

Salois said the market already moved far past the proverbial tipping point on antibiotics in broiler production. The question is now how much bigger the market will become, with major food brands and retailers moving toward serving only antibiotic-free (ABF) chicken.

Removing antibiotics from broiler production means higher mortality and greater risk for serious health disorders. Salois said antibiotic-free broilers’ increased mortality ranges between 24 to 25 percent, while grow out time is 3 to 4 percent longer and cycle time is increased by 21 to 29 percent.

If the entire U.S. market moved to ABF, 680 million to 880 million more birds would be needed to provide the same amount of meat. Feeding and watering those birds would require 3,900 to 5,200 square miles of additional land for crop farming and 1.9 billion to 3 billion more gallons of fresh water. The same birds would produce 4.6 million to 6.1 million more tons of manure.

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