Members of a national poultry scheme promoting responsible use of antibiotics managed to cut usage by 44 per cent while increasing productivity over a three-year period.
The British Poultry Council (BPC) has published a report on its Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme using data collected from the industry between 2012 and 2015.
The scheme was established by the BPC in 2011 to bring together expertise from poultry producers and leading poultry veterinarians.
Over the period 2012-2015, production increased by 5 per cent, with UK poultry meat accounting for 44 per cent of total UK meat production.
Total antibiotic use over that period fell by 44 per cent, a result the BPC described as ’an encouraging downward trend’.
The data covered 90 per cent of production across chicken (meat), Turkey and Duck sectors, according to BPC.
It said poultry was the first UK livestock sector to use a data collection mechanism to record antibiotic usage and share this data with the government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).
The livestock sectors are coming under increasing pressure to cut back on usage, in light of growing concerns about emerging resistance to human and veterinary drugs.
BPC chairman John Reed said: “The BPC Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme has been notably successful in delivering a strategy for the responsible use of antibiotics.
"We want to continue to be open and transparent and we are proud to be the first UK livestock sector to publish this level of information.”
Members of the Scheme do not support the routine use of antibiotics.
BPS said they had strict measures in place to ensure that where they are used, they are used responsibly and in line with the guidelines and principles outlined by the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA).
In 2012, the scheme it introduced a voluntary ban on the use of third and fourth generation cephalosporins, and a commitment to reduce the use of fluoroquinolone antibiotics.
In 2016, the Scheme made a further commitment to not use colistin.
Reg Smith, chairman of the Scheme said, “Through the formation of the BPC Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme, the sector has taken decisive action to develop a strategy to manage antibiotic use.
"Our key focus is responsible use of antibiotics and, where possible, a reduction in the use of those antibiotics considered to be of most highly critical importance by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"We recognise the importance of protecting the integrity of these antimicrobial classes for both animal and human health.”
Daniel Parker, BPC veterinary adviser stressed the issue was about more than simply cutting antibiotic usage. He called for more research into novel antibiotics and alternative effective therapeutic options.
He said: “We use antibiotics to protect bird health and we will continue to work with government to explore alternatives.
"Until effective alternatives become available antibiotics will continue to be important in treating bacterial conditions in both human and animal medicine.”