The National Pork Board is leading the conversation to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and preserve the responsible on-farm use of antibiotics in pork production. The Pork Checkoff, funded directly by America’s 60,000 pig farmers, defined its three-point antibiotic stewardship plan in mid-2015 and has delivered on its pledge of promoting research, pig farmer education and consumer and influencer outreach during 2016.
“Real, substantive change is underway on pig farms across America with the farmers themselves shaping the discussion around responsible antibiotic use,” says Jan Archer, National Pork Board president and a pig farmer from North Carolina. “We were the first food-animal industry to announce our stewardship plan, which underscores that antibiotics are essential tools for veterinarians and farmers to raise healthy livestock and to produce safe food.”
Archer added that today’s pig farmers stand ready to implement the new, more stringent U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules when they take effect on Jan. 1. These rules — FDA Guidelines 209 and 213 and the Veterinary Feed Directive Rule — end the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion and bring the use of medically important antimicrobial medicines under the direct supervision of veterinarians and dictate that they be used only when necessary to ensure animal health.
“We have been listening closely to the many audiences touched by food production,” says Archer. “From retail grocery chains to the foodservice industry, and from consumers to those influencers who define food production policy, we completely understand the important role pig farmers play in delivering safe food. We are committed to defining the ideal balance of the right medicine, in the right dose, at the right time for our pigs.”
Toward that end, in 2016 the U.S. pork industry has:
♦ Collaborated with federal agencies such as the USDA, FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and veterinary and farmer organizations to look for ways to continuously improve responsible antibiotic use.
♦ Introduced the Don’t Wait… Be Ready! pig farmer awareness and education campaign.
♦ Invested $750,000 in five research areas that include defining alternative antibiotic technologies, studying the environmental fate of antibiotics and better understanding the impact of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
♦ Named a third-party panel of non-farm experts to provide objective, independent counsel on the National Pork Board’s current and future research, education and communication priorities.
♦ Hosted several events and presentations with key influencers and the media to shape discussion around antibiotic use in both livestock and human health.
“America’s pig farmers embrace the new FDA rules which truly change the long-standing practices of our industry,” says Bill Even, National Pork Board chief executive officer. “Pig farmers are committed to a process of continuous improvement in a number of areas, especially regarding responsible antibiotic use. One key element of that commitment is strengthening the relationships farmers have with their veterinarians.”
“We take our role as pig farmers very seriously when it comes to using antibiotics responsibly,” Archer says. “Just as in human medicine with patients and doctors, we realize that pig farmers and their veterinarians are the linchpin to keeping food safe, and antibiotics effective, for future generations.”
Materials outlining each of the pork industry’s efforts are available from the Antibiotics Resource Center (pork.org/antibiotics). They explain how producers should prepare for the expansion of the veterinary feed directive and the elimination of growth promotion use of antibiotics deemed medically important to human health. The Checkoff also is introducing a new infographic that highlights the major steps forward in responsible antibiotic use over the past year.