First, we must state what we mean with antibiotic-free production. This is not about the antibiotic ban as applied in the European Union (and other countries). Here we will be discussing about no-antibiotics-ever broiler production. This implies that even sick birds will receive no antibiotics — no antibiotics, no matter what.
Read the entire report about NAE broiler production exclusively in the April issue of Feed Strategy.
When faced with the prospect of no-antibiotics-ever broiler production methods, one would be excused to ask: What happens if birds get sick after all? Two possibilities exist:
- Birds receive necessary antibiotics to recover from their disease, but their carcasses are sold in the mainstream market. This makes no antibiotics ever a trend for the wealthy, many will argue, but this is a discussion better left for policy makers.
- Alternatives to antibiotics are used at very high dosages, further increasing the cost, but as mentioned, such broilers are already marketed with a hefty margin enough to absorb the extra cost. Of course, mortality increases, and birds never grow to their full potential, but this is again a discussion better left for welfare advocates.
From a nutritional point of view, because this article tries very hard to remain within the realm of nutrition, we must focus on the following key points when such management system is opted for:
Forget about textbooks describing poultry nutrition as up to date. They are simply outmatched by modern times! In no-antibiotics-ever production formulas, one has to curtail protein levels to the lowest level possible. This is even below the 4 percent points rule of thumb, and it implies using high levels of all feed-grade amino acids. The opposite is true for fiber. Crude fiber (or better, a balanced fiber profile) should be increased like never before — after all, wild birds do not receive antibiotics, but they eat a lot of fiber to maintain a super-healthy gut microbiota.