Antibiotics and sustainability

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feedlot steerGeni Wren These days the terms “antibiotic use in livestock” and “sustainable agriculture” are two buzzwords (buzzterms?) that aren’t often used in the same sentence complementing each other.

However, in his recent blog, Scott Hurd, DVM, PhD, Iowa State University, discusses these two terms and how they fit together. He references the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s definition of sustainable agriculture that includes five goals.

Five goals
Basically the definition is an integrated system of plant and animal product practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term achieve the following goals that boil down to producing human food and fiber, enhancing environmental quality, efficiently using nonrenewable resources and biological cycles, sustaining economic viability of famers and enhancing quality of life for all.

Hurd says antibiotic use in the food animal industry has been shown to increase growth, efficiency, and safety while decreasing economic costs. “Compared with these guidelines, antibiotic use in food animals is also productive, uses resources efficiently, and maintains resources to meet food needs,” he says. “Antibiotic use in food animals is a perfect example of a research-based method that reduces tradeoffs and manages risks.”

Hurd says though there can be some inherent risks in antibiotic use, the benefits of carefully using them (i.e. disease control, etc.) far outweigh the risk.

Read Hurd’s blog here.

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