MN Impact: Study highlights industry shift as antibiotics use in poultry declines steeply

June 5, 2020


Reducing the use of antimicrobials in every health setting is an important step in slowing the emergence of drug-resistant pathogens. More importantly, reducing the need for antimicrobials through improved disease prevention is seen as a more holistic indicator of a population’s health—both human and poultry. 

What has been done

Over the past decade,University researchers and Extension specialists have been heavily involved in national efforts to develop potential alternatives to antibiotics in the poultry industry and help to share best practices to ensure antibiotics are not being overused. A recent study led by a U of M epidemiologist,in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration and US Poultry, has found significant reductions in using most medically important antibiotics in broiler chicken and turkey production. The report covers the period of 2013–2017, and over 90 percent of broiler chickens and 80 percent of turkeys that were produced in the U.S. are represented in the dataset.


The percentage of broiler chicks that received hatchery antibiotics declined from 93 percent in 2013 to just 17 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, turkey poults that received hatchery antibiotics declined from 96 percent in 2013 to 41 percent in 2017. Tetracycline use in the feed of broiler chickens dropped by 95 percent from 2013 to 2017 and decreased by 67 percent over the same period in turkeys. The use of ceftiofur, a third-generation cephalosporin, dropped to zero in turkey poults in 2017.

The results suggest that companies are making major changes in their production protocols, including using flock and herd management practices to mitigate disease introduction and spread, and, subsequently, reduce the need for antibiotic use. Improvements in antimicrobial stewardship, changing consumer demands, and changes in federal regulations are the likely key factors behind the decline.

Note on funding: Primary funding for this project was provided to Mindwalk Consulting Group, LLC through a contract with the Food and Drug Administration. Additional direct funding was provided by USPOULTRY.