Growth Promoting Antibiotics in Food Animal Production: An Economic Analysis.

By Jay P. Graham, MBA, Ellen Silbergeld, PhD, from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and John J. Boland from The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore,, PhD. This article was published in the January-February issue of Public Health Reports
calendar icon 13 March 2007
clock icon 3 minute read


Objective. Considerable controversy persists regarding the use of human antibiotics to promote growth in animals raised for food. The authors examined the economic effect of removing antibiotics used for growth promotion in commercial broiler chickens.

Methods. The authors utilized data published by the Perdue company, the fourth largest poultry producer in the United States, in which a non-randomized controlled trial of growth-promoting antibiotic (GPA) use was conducted with seven million broiler chickens to evaluate the impact of removing GPAs on production.

Results. Positive production changes were associated with GPA use, but were insufficient to offset the cost of the antibiotics. The net effect of using GPAs was a lost value of $0.0093 per chicken (about 0.45% of total cost). Based upon these data, the authors found no basis for the claim that the use of GPAs lowers the cost of production. Note that this study does not include veterinary cost changes or changes in performance variability associated with the removal of GPAs.

Conclusions. This economic analysis is the first study to the authorsf knowledge utilizing large-scale empirical data collected by U.S. industry, in which it is demonstrated that the use of GPAs in poultry production is associated with economic losses to the producers. These data are of considerable importance in the ongoing national debate concerning the continued use of antibiotics for growth promotion of food animals. Based on the industry study and the resulting economic impact, the use of GPAs in U.S. poultry production should be reconsidered.

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March 2007
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