Consumer and market demands are also reflected in the shift to more judicious use of antimicrobials. Products and campaigns that highlight perceived positive attributes associated with raised without antibiotics production are often resonating with consumers. An increasing number of major food retailers and brands are highlighting these messages and adding to the consumer perception of a negative association with antibiotics use in agriculture.
Environmental concerns are also a key factor influencing industry trends as part of the broader antimicrobial use and resistance issue. Less antimicrobial use in agriculture means less risk of antimicrobial presence in the environment.
At the same time, science-based advances mean that agriculture has better knowledge and tools than ever before to minimize disease risk and lessen the need for antimicrobials. Today it is possible to responsibly produce large volumes of raised without antibiotics products without compromising animal health and welfare, provided the systems allow for separation and treatment of animals when the need for antimicrobials does occur.
Concerns about the issue of antimicrobial resistance are placing pressure on reduced or more judicious use of antimicrobials in agriculture. This includes regulatory changes that are eliminating the use in agriculture of antimicrobials important to human medicine and restricting all use of antimicrobials to strict medical purposes under veterinary oversight. The responsible use of medically important antimicrobials is intended to preserve their effectiveness and minimize the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.
The World Health Organization defines antimicrobial resistance as the ability of a microorganism to stop antimicrobials (ex. antibiotics, antivirals, etc.) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infection persists, and health risks increase. It is important to understand that antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally, typically through genetic changes, over time.
Microorganisms’ ability to adapt and change in dynamic environments explains their survival over millions of years; however, research suggests that recently antimicrobial resistance has increased at an accelerated rate. This threatens the viability of important tools for human and animal medicine.