Antimicrobial Use in Food Animals: USA

Recently, we had a series of posts about the CAHSS report, including both human and animal antimicrobial use trends. Now, how about some US animal data to add to the mix?

The USDA has released their 2016 report on antimicrobial sales and use in food animals. It’s a big report that I assume most of you won’t want to read in full, so here are some highlights.

Antibiotic sales and distribution dropped by 10% from 2015-2016.

  • Pretty impressive.

Cattle and pigs battled for the biggest users, with moos edging out oinks.

Medically-important antibiotics encompasses pretty much anything used in humans, so it’s a broad group. Use of this group decreased in 14% from 2015 to 2016. Overall, 60% of antibiotics used in food animals were medically important. The majority of this (70%) was tetracyclines.

  • That’s not surprising, given how they are used in food animal species. It’s also a ton of drugs (figuratively….literally, it was many tonnes, with 5,866,588 kg used in 2016).
  • That a lot, but down 15%.
  • The good news is that tetracycline are in the lowest group of the medically important antibiotics.
  • Still, that’s a lot of antibiotics and probably a big area where further reductions could occur without negative impacts.

Cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones, two critically important drug classes, each accounted for <1% of use. Most of the cephalosporin use was in cattle.

  • Good news (although we can still be better).

As expected, chickens led the way in relative use of not medically important drugs.

  • There are a few reasons for that, including the diseases of greatest relevance and active efforts to curtail use of certain drugs.

In-feed use was most common, followed by in water use. Individual animal treatment accounted for a much lower percentage.

It’s hard to say whether this is all good news, bad new, or just news. Reductions are good. However, looking at kgs of drugs only tells a very small part of the story. Much more refined information is needed, along with efforts to reduce antibiotic use while avoiding impacts on animal health, welfare and productivity. It’s not an easy area to address, as it’s a complex problem that will require complex solutions.

One comment

  1. The US don’t consider bacitracins as medically important in their categorization of antimicrobials. This class of antimicrobials is used frequently in chickens, and is therefore the reason why chickens don’t play a more prominent role in the use of medically important antimicrobials. If we used Canada’s classification, or the WHO CIA list it would paint a different picture.


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