At its Spring conference in Cartagena, Colombia, the International Poultry Council reiterated its commitment to tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the poultry meat production chain. For the BPC, this action is very welcome and will help set our own efforts in the global context.
In June we’ll be publishing our report on antibiotic usage in the UK, using the comprehensive 2016 data we have collected from our members. The responsible use and stewardship approach is fundamental to our efforts, and we’re delighted to be part of a global effort on this important subject.
We’ve been fortunate, as the UK poultry meat industry, to have the infrastructure in place to look at this subject, and supported by some focused and dedicated poultry veterinarians. Even with that head-start we are nowhere near having all the answers, or even asking all the right questions, while still producing the nearly one billion birds that feed the country. Other livestock sectors in the UK and other European countries have not been so fortunate, so we have to be realistic about the effort it’s going to take on a global scale.
Countries will have different starting points, and not everyone will be able to take immediate steps. However, it’s important that all countries have bought-into the idea that understanding and controlling (and ultimately reducing) their use of antimicrobials is the right thing to do. This may sound like an apology for doing nothing, but we mustn’t underestimate how big a step it will be to begin this journey.
We take for granted veterinary oversight of antimicrobial usage, but there are many countries around the world that don’t enjoy the veterinary structure that we do. While the ultimate aim might be for all antimicrobials to be used under veterinary supervision, the question right now is what alternatives are practical that can deliver similar outcomes. Can we introduce a level of training and competency in regions with an absence of veterinary skills?
This is just one example, but it does illustrate the challenges we face as a global industry. It would be easy to see these challenges as too difficult to overcome, but let’s apply the creativity and innovation that often defines the poultry meat industry. Let’s focus on the outcomes we want to deliver rather than the process. Let’s make one change that sets us on the road to responsible use and stewardship of antimicrobials. For the UK that was the industry taking control of collecting data on the use of antibiotics, instead of relying on inaccurate sales data. That was the one change that set us on this path of playing our small part in a global issue.
So what about antimicrobial resistance? It’s a massive global issue that even with the best will in the world, is too big for the poultry meat industry. What we can do, and must do, is understand the impact of our activities, and how we can mitigate them. At one end that might mean scientific research into the pathways that resistance takes in the production chain, and at the other it may simply be tracking what is used, when, and why.
Right now, we must all be facing the same direction, be ready to help each other, and be willing to take a first step, whether that’s big or small. Think global, act local indeed.