Antibiotic reductions, elimination pose ongoing challenges

Annual WATT Global Media Poultry Nutrition & Feed Survey reveals insights into the macro trends shaping modern poultry feed formulations.

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Global poultry production has increasingly been influenced by consumer preferences, a push toward sustainability and new regulations which, in turn, have dictated how poultry feed is formulated. WATT Global Media’s annual Poultry Nutrition & Feed Survey offers a firsthand look at the macro trends affecting the poultry industry worldwide and provides a glimpse into the ways poultry producers, nutritionists and feed manufacturers are adapting to these changes and challenges.

The 2019 edition of the survey, conducted in late 2018, includes input from 351 respondents from around the world:

  • Latin America, 39 percent
  • United States/Canada, 26 percent
  • Asia-Pacific, 12 percent
  • Africa, 11 percent
  • Europe, 9 percent
  • Middle East, 3 percent

More than half of survey participants are nutritionists, consultants and veterinarians; nearly 20 percent work in live production management or as the owner of a poultry farm.

Profitability Outlook 2019
Slightly more than half of 2019 survey respondents were optimistic about their company’s profitability compared with 2018.

2019 profitability outlook, obstacles

Overall, survey respondents were optimistic about their company’s profitability in 2019. Fifty-one percent of respondents felt profitability will improve in 2019. While 29 percent suspect business will remain flat this year, the other 20 percent believe economic conditions will negatively impact their profits.

When asked to weigh in on the primary challenges facing their business, 79 percent cited the cost of grain and its quality (65 percent) as two of their primary concerns. Sixty-four percent of respondents feel the elimination of antibiotics due to regulation or consumer pressure is the No. 3 greatest challenge.

2018 Effect Of International Trade Disputes
Most respondents report experiencing negative effects from international trade disputes in 2018, with 30 percent bracing for the repercussions in 2019.

Geopolitical issues and related trade disputes in 2018 have sparked unease among survey respondents. Fifty-three percent ranked the influence of trade uncertainty as one of their top 2019 concerns. When asked how international trade disputes affected their business in 2018, 32 percent of survey participants said they experienced negative effects, and 30 percent expect to feel the ripple effect in 2019. Only 13 percent were impacted positively.

Regarding their feed cost and formulation programs, 42 percent of respondents cited antibiotic restrictions as their greatest production challenge in 2019, 20 percent said cage-free egg production and 13 percent noted slow-growing chicken production.

Top Challenges To 2019 Feeding Programs
Poultry producers feel antibiotic reduction and elimination pose the greatest challenges in 2019, while the move toward cage-free production ranked No. 2 with participants.

Percentage Antibiotic Free Production 2019
Eighty-one percent of survey participants report having antibiotic-free production. 

Poultry Health Issues Without Ag Ps 2019
Respondents report increased incidents of coccidiosis and necrotic enteritis after reducing or eliminating antibiotics from their poultry feeding programs. Five percent did not experience negative effects.

Antibiotic reduction and elimination

Eighty-one percent of 2019 survey participants report having some degree of antibiotic-free (ABF) production in their operations.

However, with these efforts, producers are experiencing additional or increased disease challenges. Since eliminating or reducing antibiotic usage in poultry feed production, respondents cite increased incidents of coccidiosis (53 percent), necrotic enteritis (53 percent) and colibacillosis (35 percent).

Cost Of Antibiotic Free Poultry Formulations 2019
While 55 percent of respondents have experienced some increases in the cost of the antibiotic-free poultry rations, 19 percent feel they have cost less or stayed the same (11 percent).

When asked to identify the total cost of antibiotic-free poultry rations, 19 percent note that their company’s formulations cost less without them; 11 percent report that their costs stayed the same. Meanwhile, 25 percent cite cost increases of 1 to 5 percent more, 19 percent say costs have increased by 5 to 10 percent and 11 percent have seen their antibiotic-free feed production costs increase by more than 10 percent.

Top Challenges To 2019 Programs
Survey respondents feel the efficacy (36 percent) and the cost (34 percent) of feed additives as antibiotic alternatives complicate the transition to antibiotic-free poultry production. | WATT Global Media

Survey participants attribute their greatest difficulties with antibiotic-free poultry production to inconsistent results with feed additives alternatives (36 percent), the cost of feed additives (34 percent), on-farm implementation challenges (28 percent) and losses related to the elimination of antibiotic growth promoters (AGP) (27 percent).

Agp Replacement Additives 2019
Sixty-five percent of respondents report that they use organic acids in their AGP replacement strategy; probiotics (61 percent) and enzymes (54 percent) are also commonly utilized. Half use phytogenic feed additives.

Efficacy Of Antibiotic Replacement Feed Additives 2019
Respondents report positive experiences with organic acids, probiotics and enzymes.

Feed additive solutions

Sixty-seven percent of respondents report that their company is actively exploring, testing or using feed additives as antibiotic alternatives or replacements.

To supplement the positive production and health gains AGPs offered, survey respondents have looked to feed additives to bridge the gap. Organic acids (65 percent) and probiotics (61 percent) ranked as the most popular alternatives. Fifty-four percent use enzymes and half utilize phytogenic feed additives.

Respondents found organic acids (74 percent), probiotics (70 percent) and enzymes (68 percent) to be the most effective feed additives when seeking antibiotic alternatives. Phytogenic feed additives were deemed effective by 60 percent of respondents; however, 27 percent felt they couldn’t comment on the efficacy of the category.

Consequently, comparing 2018 inclusions against 2019, respondents will increase their use of probiotics (50 percent), prebiotics (50 percent) and phytogenics (40 percent) this year. Thirty-two percent will decrease their use of therapeutic and subtherapeutic (31 percent) antibiotics.

Feed Additive Ration Inclusions 2018 2019
Survey respondents plan to increase their use of probiotics (50 percent), prebiotics (50 percent) and phytogenics (40 percent) in 2019.


Consumer Protein Consumption Trend 2019
Survey respondents feel plant-based animal meat alternatives will be the animal protein sector’s greatest competitor, believing cell-cultured meat has less potential in the future. 

Alternative Meat Market Share Lost 2019 2029
Poultry industry stakeholders feel cost and a general increased demand for protein will dictate the success of animal protein alternatives in the future, but many feel the threat is minimal. 

Threat of animal protein alternatives

As the demand for more protein in human diets increases, changing consumer ideologies, diet fads and environmental concerns may cut into the animal protein sector’s market share in the future.

Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents believe plant-based meat alternatives pose the greatest threat to poultry meat production. Overall, participants do not feel much market share will be lost to plant-based alternative meats, with 39 percent predicting a less than 5 percent by 2029. Others, however, are not are as optimistic, with 50 percent trending toward between 5 and 10 percent losses. Sixteen percent believe it could rise above 10 percent. 

Today, only 15 percent believe “clean” or lab-grown cell-cultured meats are the top threat to poultry production.

Fifty-two percent believe most consumers will try it, but do not feel like the option will be adopted into mainstream diets; 23 percent do not feel like it will be a threat to traditional animal production. However, 21 percent of respondents believe they are “the future of protein consumption” and will compete against animal meat for market share.

Believing that alternative proteins cannot compete with real meat, 30 percent of respondents do not feel consumer protein trends will threaten the poultry industry.


Poultry Nutrition & Feed Survey at a glance

The editors of Feed Strategy, WATT PoultryUSA, Industria Avicola, Egg Industry and Poultry International surveyed 351 people producing and using poultry feed worldwide. The survey sought to define the feeding and external trends shaping these businesses during the past 12 months. The survey was conducted in English and Spanish.

Participants included:

  • Nutritionists: 22 percent
  • Consultants: 16 percent
  • Veterinarians: 13 percent
  • General administration: 7 percent
  • Poultry farm owner/grower: 12 percent
  • Live production management: 6 percent
  • Marketing and sales: 7 percent
  • Feed mill/plant operations: 5 percent
  • Quality control, purchasing agent, other: 12 percent

Responses from:

  • Latin America: 39 percent
  • United States/Canada: 26 percent
  • Asia/Pacific: 12 percent
  • Europe: 9 percent
  • Africa: 11 percent
  • Middle East: 3 percent


  • Consultant/veterinarian/nutritionist: 25 percent
  • Broiler production: 16 percent
  • Feed manufacturing: 13 percent
  • Egg production: 13 percent
  • Manufacturing/distributing feed additives: 8 percent
  • Breeder farm/hatchery: 5 percent
  • Premix manufacturing: 3 percent
  • Turkey/duck production: 3 percent
  • Poultry processing: 3 percent
  • Other: 11 percent
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