Consumers may be easily drawn in by labels that say “antibiotic-free.” But do they understand what this really means? Donald Ritter, DVM, a veterinarian with Mountaire Farms, says it takes some education to help consumers understand why we use antibiotics.
“It sounds good that we’re going to raise all these animals and nobody’s ever going to have to go to a doctor. But that’s not a realistic expectation,” he says. So I think the expectation should be allow veterinarians to care for animals in a prompt and appropriate way when their health status changes. And don’t penalize producers for doing that.”
The right approach, he says, is to use a systems-based certification where animals are raised and purchased in a system with rules for antibiotics used and how sick animals are treated. (Read about the One Health Certification Program here.)
“This offers a better outcome for everyone then just trying to single out one animal and one package, especially for longer-lived animals,” he says.
For example, consider market hogs, which are six-month-old animals.
“It’s going to be very difficult to eliminate antibiotic use and expect none of those animals to get sick in that length of time,” he says. “So I think appropriate use of antibiotics, responsible use, is the sustainable solution to treating animals properly and addressing the problem of antimicrobial resistance.”
One Health Series: The Politics of Antimicrobial Resistance