IPPE - The Brave New World of Antibiotic-Free Poultry

US - The move away from the use of antibiotics, especially as growth enhancers, driven by consumers and governmental regulators, will have a significant impact on how the industry moves forward, said Charles Hofacre on Tuesday during his keynote lecture at the International Poultry Scientific Forum, part of the International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. Andrew Amelinckx reports.
calendar icon 1 February 2017
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Hofacre is a professor and director of clinical services at the University of Georgia’s college of veterinary medicine in Athens. Much of his research has been on food safety and in reducing antibacterial resistant bacteria on poultry products that could potentially infect people.

The keys to success in what he calls a “brave new world” of raising poultry without antibiotics includes high chick quality, good husbandry practices, and most importantly, maintaining healthy gut flora in poultry, which touches on everything from feed efficiency (and the bottom line) to preventing necrotic enteritis — an acute bacterial infection — and controlling Salmonella levels.

“Everything we do going into this future is going to be about how to maintain good, healthy intestinal flora. A lot of it starts with the health of the intestine, resulting in a healthy broiler,” Hofacre said.

He said for more than fifty years the industry used growth promoting antibiotics, which helped prevent some necrotic enteritis, but now the industry is going to be relying on products like enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, organic acids, inorganic acids, phytoceuticals, and immune stimulants and moderators, mainly in various combinations, to fight this disease.

“The three things to prevent necrotic enteritis are to control intestinal epithelium damage, prevent Clostridium from growing like crazy, and maintain good healthy intestinal flora, and if you can do that in this brave new world of poultry raised without antibiotics, then you'll be successful in preventing both clinical and subclinical necrotic enteritis,” he said.

Hofacre, who has been in the industry for more than 30 years, stressed that it would be up to the younger generation of scientists to discover the best ways to deal with animal welfare, food safety, antimicrobial stewardship and environmental regulations, which they should see as “opportunities to bring the poultry industry into this new way of doing business.”

“Those of you much younger than me are going to have an exciting time learning to raise broilers, turkeys, and layers in a different climate, without easily accessible antibiotic usage,” he told the audience, which included a number of younger scientists.

“I believe in the integrated poultry industry. I believe we are going to be highly successful with all these changes we've got coming. We will see some really novel research presented at this meeting in the next few years on how to be successful in this new world,” he said.

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