The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) has launched the International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture (ICASA), a public-private partnership to advance research on antimicrobial stewardship in animal agriculture and improve animal health and welfare. 

FFAR recognizes that antibiotics are extremely valuable tools in the effort to protect animal health. However, maintaining the efficacy of antibiotics is a highly complex issue, affecting both human and animal health, and it is a top priority for veterinarians and livestock producers. The responsible and judicious use of antibiotics is key to addressing this challenge, which impacts the entire supply chain and is further complicated by factors that influence animal health, including genetics, nutrition, infectious diseases, environmental stressors and other factors, according to FFAR. 

The purpose of ICASA is to accelerate innovation and improve antibiotic stewardship by building the cross-sector partnerships critical to making advances on a broad scale. The consortium will uncover long-term solutions to major drivers of antibiotic use by field-testing new technologies and management practices. Ultimately, the consortium aims to develop and publish results that improve animal health and welfare, promote responsible and judicious antibiotic use, and benefit animal agriculture as well as the general public.

“ICASA has the potential to have extraordinary impact. The collaborative framework brings together exceptional expertise and significant resources to tackle major challenges in livestock production. Working together is critical to improving animal health and welfare and preserving the efficacy of antibiotics for both animals and people,” said Tim Kurt, scientific program director at FFAR. 

Collectively, ICASA member organizations represent approximately 40 percent of all fed beef cattle marketed in the U.S., through operations that feed over 2.75 million head of cattle and provide veterinary services to an additional 2 million head of cattle. The consortium includes three of the world’s largest companies that process or sell beef, pork and chicken products, along with two livestock associations that together represent over 85,000 producers. ICASA is the first research consortium to bring together participants representing all stages of the U.S. livestock supply chain, from producers to restaurant chains, to accelerate improvement in animal welfare and judicious antibiotic use.

Private-sector participants are matching FFAR’s initial $7.5 million investment in ICASA, resulting in a total investment of $15 million towards innovative animal health and antimicrobial stewardship research. ICASA projects will initially focus on animal health issues that underlie significant challenges to welfare and reducing the need for antimicrobial use in beef and pork. ICASA will also support cross-species projects focused on animal health and welfare monitoring. Understanding the diseases that drive antibiotic use will allow producers to find alternatives while maintaining animal health.

“It’s a truly unique opportunity when 12 organizations work together to solve major industry challenges,” said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “Not only does ICASA represent one of the largest investments in antibiotic stewardship and livestock welfare research, it’s bringing the right people to the table. ICASA has the potential to advance animal agriculture in amazing ways.”

ICASA participants

FFAR’s initial $7.5 million investment is matched by the ICASA participants for a total investment of $15 million in antimicrobial stewardship research. ICASA’s founding participants include: Advanced Animal Diagnostics, the Beef Alliance, Cactus Research, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, HyPlains Feedyard, JBS USA, McDonald’s, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Board, the Noble Research Institute, Tyson Foods, and Veterinary Research and Consulting Services.