by Predrag Persak, Regional Technical Manager North Europe, EW Nutrition
The main sustainability challenge for broiler production lies in securing enough high-quality, nutritious, safe, and readily available food at a reasonable cost. At times, feed ingredients have to be included that are not nutritionally ideal and might compromise one’s broilers’ health and wellbeing. However, counteracting this threat with prophylactic antibiotics is not acceptable: We must minimize the use of antibiotics to mitigate antimicrobial resistance. The way forward is to go beyond static and linear nutritional value-to-price thinking. A dynamic nutritional strategy focusing on the interdependencies between ingredients, gut, microbiome, and digestion, enables sustainable ABF broiler production.
Sustainable ABF broiler production requires a dynamic, gut health-oriented nutritional strategy
The United Nations’ 1987 Brundtland report offers a clear definition of sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” “Ability” includes the availability of resources – and in broiler production, which is one of the most efficient livestock productions, resources have always been a top priority. As a constantly evolving industry, broiler production has been quick to adopt sustainability into its management strategies. The use of the resource that is antibiotics, however, poses particular challenges.
Humans and animals depend on antibiotics to fight microbial infections. It is essential to maintain their efficacy so that future generations can lead healthy lives. Antibiotic efficacy is under threat from the development of antimicrobial resistance, which emerges from overuse and misuse in both human and veterinary medicine. Across the globe, broilers are still raised with the assistance of antibiotics. Either for disease therapy, to prevent disease occurrence, and still, in some parts of the world, to enhance performance. Driven by regulatory and consumer demands, broiler production with minimal or no use of antibiotics is rapidly gaining importance.
The challenges of antibiotic-free broiler production
ABF systems encounter numerous challenges since production requirements change drastically. Stock density must be lower; it takes longer to reach the desired weight; and more feed is needed to produce the same amount, with a higher risk of morbidity and mortality (Cervantes, 2015). The latter can result in more birds needing treatment with medically important antimicrobial drugs. All those challenges need to be overcome by adopting suitable strategies related to nutrition, genetics, management, biosecurity, welfare, and food safety.
As animal nutritionists, our focus lies on nutrition, feed, feed materials, additives, feed processing, feeding, and their (positive or negative) influence on the sustainability of ABF broiler production. However, we cannot look at these dimensions of production as a separate process. They are linked in the whole food chain and are affected by changes that happen in other related parts. An obvious example is feed production, which has an enormous impact on the overall sustainability of ABF broiler production:
- Due to raw material shortages, diets are becoming ever more complex, containing more single feed ingredients. For some of them, we need a better understanding of their impact on ABF broiler production (e.g., sunflower, rapeseed, beans, lupins).
- The nutritional composition of raw materials changes due to limitations in fertilizer use, and variability within the same raw material group is expected to increase.
- New food waste-reducing feed materials can enhance feed security but also require nutritional profiling to integrate them into diets.
- Local feed material production in humid and warm environments can introduce various pathogens into the feed/food chain.
- Increases in known and the emergence of new antinutrients and feed components that impair animal health, performance, and feed efficiency.
- Sustainability-driven pesticide reduction raises concerns about mycotoxins contaminating feed ingredients.
- Nutrient reduction to support gut health and, primarily, lower the excretion of nitrogen and phosphorous, negatively affects growth, nutritional standards, and the ability to freely select feed materials to include in broiler diets.
- The value (of which price is also part) of raw materials will be compromised, due to availability and nutritional variability.
Mycotoxin contaminated-feed can damage production animals’ performance, health, and welfare
When striving for a sustainable ABF broiler production approach, the possibility for errors becomes higher, while the error margin becomes smaller. The solution lies in helping the animals to mitigate the impact of stressors by focusing on the interaction of ingredients, gut, microbiome, and digestion. It is a holistic approach centered on gut health. Keeping the intestines BEAUTIful will help you produce in challenging conditions without the use of antimicrobials.
The BEAUTIful formula captures the six areas producers need to target for supporting broiler gut health:
If it’s working correctly, the effective gatekeeper knows what gets in and what stays out. When the barrier function is compromised due to stress, pathogens can cause infections, disrupt health, and negatively impact broiler immunity. Necrotic enteritis, femoral head necrosis, and bacterial chondronecrosis with osteomyelitis (BCO) are common diseases that affect today’s broiler production (Wideman, 2015). As the source of nutrients, feed serves as a modulator of various physiological functions in the intestinal tract, including intestinal barrier function.
The gut is where endogenous and exogenous enzymes perform their hydrolysis functions to break down complex nutrients into the parts that can be used either by the intestinal tissue itself or for the whole animal. One part of hybrid enzymatic digestion is the fermentation by commensal microbes, in which complex materials form end-products of high biological values (such as short-chain fatty acids, SCFA).
Maintaining the gut’s resorptive capacity is essential to secure the total intake of digested nutrients. Otherwise, pathogenic bacteria might use the excess nutrients to grow, form toxins, and affect the birds’ health and productivity.
The intestine of a broiler chicken is colonized by more than 800 species of bacteria and other inhabitants, such as viruses and simple organisms that are still unknown. By competitive exclusion and secretion of bacteriocins (volatile fatty acids, organic acids, and natural antimicrobial compounds), commensal bacteria keep the host safe from an overgrowth of dangerous bacteria (e.g., Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Clostridium perfringens). The fine-tuned diversity in the intestinal flora and balance in all interactions between it, the host, and the ingesta are needed for birds to stay healthy and perform well.
Birds’ digestive tract volumes are smaller than those of mammals with similar body weight. This means that they achieve more efficient nutrient digestion in a shorter retention time, averaging between 5 and 6 hours. Passing the small intestine usually takes around 3 hours, of which 1 hour is spent in the duodenum and jejunum. Transport times are affected by the feeding system and the extent to which material enters the caeca. Reflux of material from the distal to the proximal small intestine is an important feature that helps digestion and maintenance of a healthy gut.
The intestinal microbiota is critically important for the development and stimulation of the immune system. The intestine is the key immunological organ, comprised of myeloid and lymphoid cells, and a site for producing many immune cell types needed to initiate and mediate immunity. Together with the microbiome, dendritic cells induce antigen-specific responses and form immunoglobulin A, which works in the intestinal lumen.
In practice, supporting broiler gut health requires a holistic approach that includes natural feed additive solutions. Phytomolecules are compounds that certain plants develop as defenses mechanisms. Phytomolecules-based solutions should feature prominently in sustainable ABF broiler production approaches due to their advantageous properties:
Enhance digestion, manage variability
Sustainability necessitates efficient resource utilization. Digestion support needs to be a priority to use the available feed in its entirety. This is particularly important if antibiotics use needs to be minimized: a maximum of nutrients should be utilized by the animal; otherwise, they feed potentially harmful bacteria, necessitating antibiotic treatments. Enhancing digestibility is the focus when we are dealing with variable feed materials or feed changes that represent stress to the animal. Selected phytomolecules have proven efficient at improving performance due to enhanced digestion (Zhai et al. 2018).
Work on microbiome and pathogens
The antimicrobial activity of certain phytomolecules can prevent the overgrowth of pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract, thereby reducing dysbacteriosis (Liu et al., 2018) and specific diseases such as necrotic enteritis. Studies on broilers show that they also reduce the adhesion of pathogens to the wall of the intestine. Certain phytomolecules even possess antimicrobial characteristics against antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Keep gut integrity
Phytomolecules help maintain tight junction integrity, thus preventing leaky gut (Li et al., 2009). As a result, the potential flow of bacteria and their toxins from the gut lumen into the bloodstream is mitigated. Their properties thus make phytomolecules a promising alternative to the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics.
Trial results: Phytomolecules enhance broiler gut health
To test the efficacy of phytomolecules, we conducted a large-scale field study in Brazil, under practical conditions. The focus was on growth performance, and no growth-promoting antibiotics were used. Lasting 5 months, the trial involved more than 2 million broilers. The birds were divided into a control and a trial group, with two repetitions per group. Both groups were fed the standard feed of the farm. The trial group additionally received 100g of Activo per MT in its finisher feed for 3 weeks. The study clearly shows that Activo supplementation improves performance parameters (daily weight gain, average total gain, and improved feed efficiency), which resulted in a higher production efficiency factor (PEF):
- Activo groups had a 3 % higher average daily weight gain and reached their slaughtering age earlier
- The final weight of Activo groups was about 2.5 % higher than in the control group
- With a 2 points better feed conversion, the animals of the Activo group achieved a 13.67 points higher PEF
Figure 1: Broiler performance results, Activo vs. non-supplemented control group
Antibiotic-free broiler production is a challenging endeavor: producers need to maintain animal welfare and keep up efficiency while making farming profitable. Over time, these challenges will affect producers even more as sustainability requirements increase across all parts of the broiler production chain. On top of that, coccidiostats, which are essential for efficient broiler production, are increasingly being questioned, which will require concerted research into feed additive solutions.
To make sustainable ABF broiler production the norm, it is unavoidable to adopt suitable strategies related to nutrition, genetics, management, biosecurity, welfare, and food safety. Effective, scientifically and practically proven tools already exist: Thanks to their positive impact on intestinal health, phytomolecules reliably support sustainable broiler production without antibiotics.
Cervantes, Hector M. “Antibiotic-Free Poultry Production: Is It Sustainable?” Journal of Applied Poultry Research 24, no. 1 (2015): 91–97. https://doi.org/10.3382/japr/pfv006.
Li, Y., H.Y. Cai, G.H. Liu, X.L. Dong, W.H. Chang, S. Zhang, A.J. Zheng, and G.L. Chen. “Effects of Stress Simulated by Dexamethasone on Jejunal Glucose Transport in Broilers.” Poultry Science 88, no. 2 (2009): 330–37. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps.2008-00257.
Liu, ShuDong, MinHo Song, Won Yun, JiHwan Lee, ChangHee Lee, WooGi Kwak, NamSoo Han, HyeunBum Kim, and JinHo Cho. “Effects of Oral Administration of Different Dosages of Carvacrol Essential Oils on Intestinal Barrier Function in Broilers.” Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 102, no. 5 (2018): 1257–65. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpn.12944.
Wideman, Robert F. “Bacterial Chondronecrosis with Osteomyelitis and Lameness in Broilers: a Review.” Poultry Science 95, no. 2 (2016): 325–44. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pev320.
Zhai, Hengxiao, Hong Liu, Shikui Wang, Jinlong Wu, and Anna-Maria Kluenter. “Potential of Essential Oils for Poultry and Pigs.” Animal Nutrition 4, no. 2 (2018): 179–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aninu.2018.01.005.
- Coccidia must be controlled.
- The feeding program must be designed to succeed in an ABF system and properly managed.
- Feed ingredient quality must be high.
- Healthy gut bacteria must be maintained.
- The flock's bacteria and virus load must be reduced.
1. “No antibiotics ever” or “raised without antibiotics”: Poultry that has never been fed any antibiotics (including ionophore anticoccidials). Products from these systems are clearly labeled to differentiate them from other production systems. 2.
Even if a chicken is given antibiotics in the course of its life to treat or prevent disease, all chicken you buy is technically “antibiotic free” – federal rules state that if any antibiotics are required, they must have cleared the birds' systems before they can leave the farm.
As far back as 1992, investigators from the University of California-Davis conducted studies indicating that feeding antibiotics may permit growth by preventing immunologic stress and associated metabolic changes.
When animals are “raised without antibiotics”, it means that they have not been given antibiotics through their feed, water, or injections. Opting for meat and poultry raised without antibiotics is an important step in preventing the public health crisis that antibiotic resistance would become in the future.
But if you also see a "raised without antibiotics" claim on a chicken or turkey product in addition to the USDA organic label, it means antibiotics were not used at any point, even in the hatcheries. Food producers that use the organic seal undergo annual on-farm inspections, so the claim is verified.
What changes would you suggest in current commercial chicken production to avoid encouraging antibiotic resistant bacteria? ›
Control Environment Housing. Producers can reduce bacterial growth and antibiotic use by maintaining the adequate ventilation of poultry housing facilities. A study reported the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the air of broiler chicken facilities .
It is against the law to sell meat containing antibiotics. Less than 0.5% of all meat samples tested in 2018 contained detectable antibiotics (U.S. Residue Program).
An organic chicken cannot be treated with antibiotics. * “Fresh” means the chicken has never been cooled below 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius). * “Free-range” is taken by many to mean that the chickens roam free in a pasture, but legally it just means they have access to the outside.
“If you take those (recommended) precautions, the (risk of) resistance of antibiotics from a meat source is eliminated,” Plummer says. Livestock farmers understand that it's better to prevent farm animals from getting sick so they don't need to use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, Plummer says.
What does “antibiotic free” or “no antibiotics” mean? All meat, poultry and dairy foods sold in the U.S. are free of antibiotic residues, as required by federal law — whether or not the food is labeled "antibiotic free." Remember, food labels are about marketing, not about food safety, Obbink says.
The fluoroquinolones, third-generation cephalosporins, macrolides, and polymyxins (“highest priority critically important” antibiotics for human medicine according to WHO) are approved for use in large poultry-producing regions, with the exception of fluoroquinolones in the US and cephalosporins in the EU.
Currently, the following antibiotics are used in livestock and poultry feed: chlortetracycline, procaine penicillin, oxytetracycline, tylosin, bacitracin, neomycin sulfate, streptomycin, erythromycin, linomycin, oleandomycin, virginamycin, and bambermycins.
The term "antibiotic growth promoter" is used to describe any medicine that destroys or inhibits bacteria and is administered at a low, sub therapeutic dose. The use of antibiotics for growth promotion has arisen with the intensification of livestock farming.
- Applegate – Beef, pork, poultry.
- Bell & Evans – Poultry.
- Coleman (Perdue) – Poultry.
- Estancia Beef – Beef.
- Evol Foods – Beef, pork, poultry.
- FreeBird – Poultry.
- Harvestland (Perdue) – Poultry.
- Luvo ¬– Beef, chicken, turkey.
The results found that, at nearly 42 percent of the “antibiotic-free” feedyards, at least one animal tested positive for the presence of antibiotics. Antibiotics are often used to prevent infection in cattle that crowd together in feedlots. Meat that is—or claims to be—antibiotic-free is sold at higher prices.
Processed chicken products whose labels show they were raised without antibiotics (RWA) were on average $2.23 per pound more expensive than conventional chicken products between 2012 and 2017, representing a 55-percent markup over conventional products.
This may not always be possible, however, and animals that require treatment are removed from the RWA value chain, but are still sold commercially. Universally raising animals without antibiotics, however, is likely not possible, particularly given current technology and practices.
The “raised without antibiotics” claim on meat and poultry means that the animals were not given antibiotics in their feed, water or by injection. Choosing meat and poultry that is raised without antibiotics is an important step in helping address the public health crisis of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics and their residues pass through the animals and into the environment via manure, speeding the evolution of drug-resistance among bacteria in soil and water when manure is sprayed on crop fields as fertilizer. Resistant bacteria can also be found in airborne particulate matter surrounding factory farms.
Resistance to even one antibiotic can mean serious problems. For example: Antimicrobial-resistant infections that require the use of second- and third-line treatments can harm patients by causing serious side effects, such as organ failure, and prolong care and recovery, sometimes for months.
Antibiotic use can promote creation of superbugs which can contaminate meat and poultry and cause hard-to-cure disease in people. Superbugs can also exit the farm via farm workers, wind, runoff, and wildlife.
What Is Organic Food? Organic products, including animal feeds, are produced without the use of pesticides, synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering or other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation.
Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
How to remove hormones from the chicken meat - YouTube
Grass-fed (also known as 'free range' and 'pasture-raised') animal agriculture has even gotten some significant airplay as a method of production that can actually decrease carbon in the atmosphere, thereby reducing (and according to some proponents, reversing) climate change.
Kentucky Fried Chicken's Antibiotic Use Policy
KFC sells chicken raised without medically important antibiotics.
Organic: The USDA National Organic Program requires that in order to be certified with the organic label, poultry must be raised with no antibiotics, fed 100% organic feed and given access to outdoor space — though the time outside and physical area requirements are unspecified by law.
On meat and poultry labels, the Department of Agriculture requires that a "no antibiotics" claim means that the animals were not given antibiotics in their feed, in their water, or by injection. This includes ionophores—antibiotics used only in animals, not in human medicine.
Are there antibiotics in the chicken I eat? No – all chicken meat is “antibiotic-free.” If an antibiotic is used on the farm, federal rules require the antibiotics to have cleared the animals' systems before they can be slaughtered.
Vaccination is one of the more effective ways to prevent specific diseases. This is why we vaccinate poultry; so they are protected from explosive disease outbreaks.
Wear clean clothes and scrub your shoes with disinfectant before tending your birds. Clean and disinfect equipment, including cages and tools that come in contact with your birds or their droppings. Remove manure before disinfecting equipment. Properly dispose of dead birds.
Echinacea Happy Bird is known for its immunostimulating and antiviral properties, it is useful for promoting the immune system and treating the symptoms of bird colds. It is a real natural antibiotic, widely used for the treatment of respiratory diseases.
As of 2016, over 70 percent of FDA approved antibiotics are utilized in modern, high production poultry farms to prevent, control, and treat disease. The FDA released a report in 2009 estimating that 29 million pounds (13 kt) of antibiotics had been used in livestock in that year alone.
The results of the trial showed that PoultryStar® is effective in improving broiler performance. Compared to the negative control, it increased the final live weight and broiler productivity index by 4.4 % and 9.5 %.
1. Antibiotics help keep chickens healthy, which helps ensure safe, healthy food. Antibiotics help make food safe by keeping chickens healthy and reducing bacteria entering the food supply.
A chicken growth booster is a substance that is added to chicken feed, water or body in order to promote rapid growth in the birds. It could also be a type of feed additive that is used to improve the growth and overall performance of chickens.
Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent some types of bacterial infections. They are not effective against viral infections, such as the common cold or flu. Antibiotics should only be prescribed to treat health problems: that are not serious but are unlikely to clear up without antibiotics – such as acne.
Antibiotics are used in food animals to treat clinical disease, to prevent and control common disease events, and to enhance animal growth. The different applications of antibiotics in food animals have been described as therapeutic use, prophylactic use, and subtherapeutic use.
- ASPIRIN SOLUTION. Action: painkiller, anti-inflammatory. ...
- CIDER OR WHITE VINEGAR. ...
- MOLASSES SOLUTION. ...
- SUCROSE SOLUTION. ...
- SUGAR OR HONEY. ...
- Oregano/Oil of Oregano. We think of oregano as something to add to your favorite Italian dish, however, many go on without realizing how beneficial oregano is to your health! ...
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, or ACV. ...
- Honey. ...
- Turmeric. ...
- Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE). ...
- Garlic. ...
- Echinacea. ...
Carrots, Garlic, Mustard Greens, and Chili Peppers are all known as natural and very effective vermifuges or worm-expellers. Adding these things to your pumpkin treatment is a great idea. Or using these instead of pumpkin in the spring works very well.
Antibiotics help keep chickens healthy, which helps ensure safe, healthy food. Antibiotics help make food safe by keeping chickens healthy and reducing bacteria entering the food supply.
Reduce exposure to disease organisms by proper sanitation and stress management. Increase bird resistance to disease by using recommended immunization procedures. Treat disease outbreaks with specific medications that are effective against the disease being treated.
- Maintain a Healthy Flock.
- Give them space. Backyard flock owners typically have tiny coops. ...
- Keep them dry. ...
- Feed them well. ...
- Protect them. ...
- Keeping Diseases Away.
Cayenne Pepper / Hot Red Pepper
A scientific study has shown that cayenne pepper powder at an inclusion rate of 0.5-1 g/100 g of broiler feed, works great in boosting the body weight of broilers.
Take the antibiotic exactly as the doctor prescribes, even if you start to feel better. Do not skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early unless your doctor tells you to do so. Only take antibiotics prescribed for you; do not share or use leftover antibiotics. Antibiotics treat specific types of infections.
- 24 oz /700 ml apple cider vinegar (always use organic)
- ¼ cup finely chopped garlic.
- ¼ cup finely chopped onion.
- 2 fresh peppers, the hottest you can find (be careful with the cleaning - wear gloves!!!)
- ¼ cup grated ginger.
- 2 tbsp grated horseradish.
- 2 tbsp turmeric powder or 2 pieces of turmeric root.
During the past years, attention has shifted toward Aloe vera as a natural additive to broiler diets, and studies have shown that Aloe vera can improve immune response and growth performance in broilers. In addition, Aloe vera is an excellent alternative for antibiotic growth promoters and anticoccidial drugs.
Can chickens eat garlic? Absolutely. Chicken keepers have used raw garlic for years to help ward off a whole list of poultry ailments including respiratory problems, infection, and as a general support to the immune system. Every rural Italian family grows enough garlic to last one year.
- Dust Bathing. Make sure your flock has access to a dust bath. ...
- Isolated Feeding. While your flock might be parasite-free today, a wild bird stumbling onto your chicken feed is the most likely to bring parasites to your flock. ...
- Plant a Chicken Garden.