Antibiotic usage remains an emotive subject within the meat industry, and while businesses around the globe have made efforts to curb their usage, there are concerns that they are still being relied on too much.
Giroux agrees that antibiotic usage is a balancing act for the industry. “Cargill recognises concerns about the increase of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We are focused on a holistic approach to ensure prudent and responsible antibiotic use that protects human and animal health.
“Antibiotics are important tools in addressing the health and welfare of the birds that are in our care. Cargill supports the responsible use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. We are limiting antibiotics as much as is prudent and responsible, but not at the expense of animal health or welfare, as sick birds must be treated to avoid suffering from disease.”
According to Giroux, Cargill has managed to halve its antibiotic usage globally since 2014 as part of a scheme that has been in operation well before then. “Since 2011, our poultry teams have been working in different countries with growers to refine good agricultural practices, such as precise climate control and ventilation, biosecurity and optimised animal nutrition. This hard work has paid off and, over the last five years, we have achieved an average reduction in antibiotic use across our global poultry supply chains of more than 50%.”
So far, the progress made has been admirable but, as ever, there’s more to be done. Giroux says Cargill recognises this and is working to make further reductions. “Cargill believes that the use of antibiotics can be further reduced by exchanging best practices at global level and by supporting research and innovation aimed at further reducing the need for antibiotics in food production,” he says. “We are committed to action that will contribute to the safe and sustainable production of protein.
“Limiting antibiotics varies by geography and the environment in which we are operating,” adds Giroux. “We are applying best practices across our global poultry footprint to achieve even higher performance and reductions. Building upon our good agricultural practices on farms, our veterinarians and scientists are testing new innovations, in partnership with Cargill’s animal nutrition experts, bringing new-to-the-world approaches in protecting animal health, including probiotics, essential oils and immunity-boosting feed additives.”
He adds that antibiotic reduction goes beyond the efforts of any one company. “There is a general consensus in animal agriculture that a focus and commitment to the basics of good agricultural practices can bring significant benefits to addressing the potential for animal diseases on-farm, and contribute significantly to reductions in antibiotic use. We are encouraged by the work of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and national governments to understand and address the public health risks associated with over-use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.”