Why I Want to Continue the Conversation About Responsible Antibiotic Use

March 23, 2017

An eye-opening discussion about responsible antibiotic use that Phil Lempert participated in with the National Pork Board.

As I shared with you at the beginning of the month, I had the opportunity to join the National Pork Board in hosting an important discussion about responsible antibiotic use on the farm and what it means at every end of the food supply chain – from farmers to consumers. Broadcast live from the National Pork Industry Forum in Atlanta, our 30-minute conversation brought together industry experts in retail, farming and animal health to talk about the real change happening on pig farms across the country.

You can watch a three-minute compilation video with key highlights here.

Our discussion was a real eye opener for me and one I want to keep moving forward. I learned how much work the pork industry has done to promote antibiotic stewardship through research, education and outreach and how committed they are to producing the highest quality pork for today’s consumers. I think the National Pork Board’s John Johnson put it best when he said, “We want the healthiest pigs possible because healthy pigs make for safe food.”

In some cases, that means prescribing antibiotics for the health and welfare of the animal. That’s why the farmer-veterinarian relationship is critical to ensuring a safe and nutritious pork supply. South Dakota pig farmers, Brad and Peggy Greenway, alongside Dr. Michelle Sprague of AMVC Veterinary Services, walked me through scenarios in which antibiotics are medically necessary for disease prevention and treatment. 

It’s important to note that as of Jan. 1 this year, FDA guidance 209 and 213 ends the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion and increases veterinarian oversight for on-farm antibiotic use through the Veterinary Feed Directive and prescriptions. All human medically important antibiotics administered to pigs in feed and water must have direct veterinarian oversight.   

My colleague Rick Stein from Food Marketing Institute also joined me to discuss how this complex issue touches all parts of the supply chain – from the producer to the packer to the retailer – and why collaboration across the industry is essential. 

As Rick noted, consumers are thirsty for information, and they have an expectation for transparency. That’s another reason this topic is so timely and relevant for many of us in the food industry. And, it’s why I want your input on this topic. What questions do you have about antibiotic use on the farm and what information do you need to be better equipped to answer consumer questions? 

Join us in keeping this important conversation moving forward. Weigh in on Twitter using #RealChangeOnFarms or share your comments with Real Pig Farming on Facebook.  

If you’re interested, a full replay of the broadcast is available at: www.RealChangeOnFarms.org.