Antibiotics are top-of-mind

Editor's note: The following article was written by PORK Network Editor JoAnn Alumbaugh and published in the July/August issue of PORK Network.

The veterinary feed directive (VFD) goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, and the National Pork Board (NPB) is actively educating producers so they're prepared.

"From the 'Don't Wait‚...Be Ready!' national producer awareness and education campaign, to ongoing engagement with consumers and influencers, to increased investment in antibiotic research, the National Pork Board is taking unprecedented action on this globally important topic," said a news release from the organization.

"Today, more than ever, we take our role as pig farmers very seriously when it comes to using antibiotics responsibly," said Derrick Sleezer, outgoing president of the NPB and a pig farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. He asserts that producers and veterinarians play a pivotal role—like patients and doctors—in maintaining the effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations.

"Our industry's 'We Care' principles serve an essential role in guiding what we do to protect people, pigs and the planet," he says.

Materials available from the Pork Checkoff 's online Antibiotics Resource Center ( explain how producers should prepare for the expansion of the VFD and the elimination of growth-promotion use of antibiotics deemed medically important to human health.

Beyond producer education efforts, the NPB reports that it invests checkoff funds on alternative antibiotic technologies, studying the environmental fate of antibiotics, antibiotic- resistant bacteria and more. Work also is underway to find new ways to evaluate models and metrics for collecting data on antibiotic use in the U.S. pork industry.

All of these efforts have the additional scrutiny of the NPB's third-party blue ribbon panel on antibiotic stewardship. The panel provides objective, independent counsel on the NPB's research, education and communication priorities.

Answering Consumers' Questions
The issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is confusing to consumers. To help provide clarity on the topic, the Pork Checkoff hosted a national dialogue by The Atlantic Media Group called "Resistance: The Antibiotic Challenge."

The event held earlier this year in Washington, D.C., "brought together key opinion leaders from human health, animal health, government, pharmaceutical, retail and consumer segments to discuss the challenge of responsible antibiotic use in the 21st century," the organization said. During the forum, representatives from the NPB, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations shared what is being done to help address concerns about antibiotic resistance.

"This year, we've demonstrated that U.S. pig farmers are dedicated to finding solutions to antibiotic resistance and to doing our part in responsible antibiotics use," Sleezer said. "Producers have a solid track record on related initiatives, such as the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program and an investment of more than $6 million in checkoff-funded antibiotic research since 2000. These steps demonstrate how our producers care about this important topic and stand ready to do what's required to keep pigs healthy and the American food supply safe."