Scientists looking for alternatives to antibiotics to keep poultry healthy will have a state-of-the-art facility for their work, thanks to a $150,000 donation from Cargill, as part of the company’s focus on safely, responsibly and sustainably producing food.

The 4,200-square foot facility will be located on the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture farm north of the Fayetteville campus. The facility will be named the Cargill Poultry Research Center. 

A groundbreaking ceremony for the center took place on April 19. 

“At a time when consumers are more interested in the source of their food, it’s increasingly important for the poultry industry to find ways to keep birds healthy in sustainable ways,” said Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “We are most appreciative of this generous donation from Cargill to enable our world-class poultry scientists to further advance the science for the healthiest poultry.”

“Cargill is pleased to support of the work being done by the Division of Agriculture,” said Dr. Brian Wooming, Cargill turkey veterinarian based in Springdale, Arkansas. “Our goal is to continuously work toward reducing the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture and the work that will be done at this new facility is essential to helping achieve that objective. We are proud to be part of this effort.”

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, the value of poultry production in the U.S. in 2016, including broilers, turkeys, chickens and eggs, was $36.688 billion. 

In 2016, Arkansas was ranked No. 2 nationally in broilers, producing 6.56 billion pounds and valued at more than $3.14 billion. Eggs were valued at $485 million and turkeys at $434 million. Arkansas was ranked No. 5 in turkeys and No. 10 in chicken eggs.

Cargill Poultry Research Center staffing, uses

Work at the facility will be led by Billy Hargis, veterinarian, PhD and director of the Poultry Health Lab for the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science at the Division of Agriculture. Hargis joined the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science in 2000. His research interests are poultry health, food safety intervention and poultry immunology and endocrinology. He was named a Poultry Science Association fellow in 2015 and distinguished professor in 2017. 

“There are many potential alternatives,” Hargis said. “These products include probiotics, prebiotics and a host of nutraceutical-type products. However, there is no independent verification of the efficacy claimed for these products. Evaluating these options will be among the first actions to be taken in this new facility.”

The facility will be used by poultry health researchers, flock management specialists and nutritionists within the Division of Agriculture, including graduate students and post-doctoral employees. They will be evaluating products currently available, as well as developing novel and promising probiotics and other products for commercialization. Matching dollars provided by Tyson Foods for this project are part of a $1.3 million gift to fund various improvements to the Division of Agriculture’s farm.

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