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USDA report looks at economics of animal antibiotic use

A newly released U.S. Department of Agriculture study look at the role and impact of antibiotics in U.S. livestock agriculture -- and finds that restrictions on their use likely would have only "small effects."

The report, "Economics of Antibiotic Use in U.S. Livestock Production", was prepared by USDA's Economic Research Service. It examines how limiting antibiotic use would affect farmer practices and profits, as well as market prices and volumes.

Among the report's conclusions:

  • "Restricting use of antibiotics through government intervention or voluntary actions is likely to have economic repercussions in animal agriculture."
  • "Producers may alter production practices, and they may seek out medicinal alternatives to antibiotics."
  • Production costs are likely to increase, leading to less production and higher prices.
  • Consumers may react to changes in prices, quality, and perceptions about meat quality and safety could alter.

The report is the source of a short article in the Economic Research Service's Amber Waves publication. The article says that restrictions on antibiotic use for production purposes in U.S. livestock industries is "likely to have small effects on prices and quantities."

Restrictions would lead to an estimated 1 percent increase in wholesale prices and a decline of less than 1 percent in production, according to the article.

The study is available here.

The article is available here.

The cover story in the Nov. 30 issue of Agweek takes a detailed look at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Veterinary Feed Directive, which will tighten when and how antibiotics can be used in animal health.