On July 10, Pew Charitable Trusts released “Alternatives to Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture,” a 36-page report reviewing the animal feed additives categories available to animal feed nutritionists to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal production.
The nonprofit, non-government organization teamed up a panel of external researchers from numerous U.S. universities and Belgium's Ghent University to develop a comprehensive review of antibiotic-alternative products.
“There is currently no systematic and comprehensive assessment on the efficacy of alternative products that are close to or already in commercial use — that highlights the gaps in research,” says Karin Hoelzer, senior officer in health programs supporting Pew’s safe food and antibiotic resistance projects. “We see this study as filling a gap.”
The organization compiled and analyzed scientific evidence and conducted a series of expert interviews to create the report with hopes that it will provide a concise overview for stakeholders in the animal feed space and serve as a baseline going forward.
In addition to an in-depth review of each type of product, the report provides three easy-to-use graphics:
Alternative Products Differ in Timing of Administration
Prioritization of Research Needs for Alternatives to Antibiotics for Use in Broiler Chickens (Based on Expert Opinion)
Alternatives to Antibiotics for Use in Animal Agriculture (shown below)
Antibiotic replacements: Just the beginning
While the results surrounding feed additives to replace antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) is promising, additional research needs to be conducted under realistic production scenarios, the report concludes.
“To optimize the use of scarce public research and development resources, priority should be placed on areas of greatest need for products to replace antibiotic use. However, to develop an evidence-based prioritization, a comprehensive understanding of animal disease conditions that necessitate antibiotic use and the roles antibiotic alternatives can play is crucial. Emphasis needs to be given to on-farm antibiotic use data to tailor and prioritize future research efforts to areas of greatest antibiotic consumption,” it says.
The study is also careful to note that the success of antibiotic alternatives makes up only “one part of a comprehensive herd or flock health management program aimed primarily at the prevention of diseases, rather than curing of infections.”
“Our report focused on the scientific evidence for the efficacy of different products,” Hoelzer says. “We recognize that there are other factors, besides efficacy, that have to be considered with respect to using alternative products, such as the challenges in bringing these products to market.”
The study suggests that public-private partnerships will improve alternative product integration into overall farm management through real-world trials and added transparency.
Pew plans to continue to study alternatives to antibiotics in food animals moving forward.
The group also released a separate report examining on-farm strategies for reducing pathogensin meat and poultry.
To view the entire antibiotic alternative report, click here.
The table below provides an efficacy summary of animal feed additives for antibiotic replacement based on a comprehensive review of scientific literature and expert input for each of the major animal protein-producing species.