Antibiotic Free Chicken

With more consumers and governments pushing to reduce use of antibiotics in livestock production, several challenges have come to light. Antibiotics have been used for many years to promote growth and prevent disease in young animals. Since the implementation of the Veterinary Feed Directive in the U.S., antibiotics must be prescribed for therapeutic use – to treat or prevent disease in animals; they can no longer be used as a growth-promoting feed additive. Now, governments outside the U.S. are moving forward with the goal of transforming the animal protein industries to become completely antibiotic-free. In other words, meat, milk, and eggs must be raised completely without the use of antibiotics – from birth to harvest. Due to the global market of agriculture, a radical change like this will impact the entire industry.

This scenario creates several challenges, which are highlighted here and here, and include: preventing and controlling common enteric pathogens, proper management of feeding programs, using quality feed ingredients, and maintaining a healthy and productive animal (i.e. good gut health and immune support).

So, how do we address some of these concerns with antibiotic-free production of meat, milk, and eggs?  A common strategy is to focus on improving gut health – especially of weaning aged animals who are more susceptible to changes in their diet – by replacing antibiotics with alternative ingredients. Nutrition management strategies can be used to reduce the impact of potential stressors on the animal’s microbiome – or a collection of microorganisms that live in and on the animal and affect its health and metabolism. Stressors can trigger a damaging inflammatory response in the gut that is energetically expensive to the animal – further reducing nutrient uptake and feed efficiency. As such, it is crucial to understand the effects and the importance of nutrients on the gut health in antibiotic-free production systems as described in detail here and here.

A common strategy is to include high-quality, nutrient-dense ingredients in the diet. The best way to measure how diet changes can impact animal performance is through animal feeding trials. The following benefits of high-shear dry extruded ingredients are highlighted below.

  • Improved nutrient digestibility due to physical changes to nutrients during extrusion, thus making the protein, fat, fiber, and starch easier to digest and utilize. In some cases, the ingredient can act as a pre-biotic fiber in piglets, which promotes good gut health.
  • Improved feed efficiency results in more meat, milk, and eggs with fewer resources creating a sustainable and cost-effective program. For example, the reduction of synthetic amino acids and added fats/oils will simplify – and many times cheapen – the overall formulation.
  • Extrusion inactivates antinutrients effectively and can be sterilizing – deactivating harmful microbial products and reducing toxins. This benefit plays an important role in biosecurity to prevent issues with contaminated – and potentially infectious – ingredients, preventing negative consequences to the animals’ growth and performance.

At Insta-Pro® International, animal feedings trials have been conducted for the last 40+ years to measure nutrient digestibility and feed efficiency parameters. As a result, the high-shear dry extrusion process has been optimized to provide quality nutrition which positively impacts the animals. These benefits can help address the challenges faced in an antibiotic-free system.