WASHINGTON — The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association gave
an overview to more than 70 congressional staff members on antibiotics used in
food producing animals as part of NCBA’s “Beef 101” educational series.
“Beef 101” is an educational program for members of Congress
and their staff, developed to continually educate those on Capitol Hill on
issues important to the beef industry.
The session featured a presentation by Dr. Mike Apley, DVM,
a clinical pharmacologist with Kansas State University, who discussed with
attendees the judicious use of antibiotics in the beef industry as one of the
critical tools to prevent the spread of disease and maintain a healthy herd.
“The goal of producers is to manage cattle to avoid
infectious diseases. Antibiotics are a valuable resource for treating both human
and animal diseases,” he said.
“Farmers and ranchers work with veterinarians to implement
comprehensive herd-health management plans, and it’s important for veterinarians
and producers to have the ability to best manage herd health and raise healthy
cattle, which ultimately means a safe food supply.”
During the presentation, Apley covered common myths about
antibiotic use, such as the misconception that 70 percent of antibiotics used in
the U.S. for human and animal uses are used for nontherapeutic use in food
In fact, Apley said, some antibiotics calculated into that
total have never been marketed in the U.S. He added that a large percentage of
the antibiotics used to treat and prevent illness in animals are ionophores,
compounds not used in human medicine.
Another myth dispelled during the session is that animal
antibiotic use is not subject to significant government regulation. Contrary to
that myth, all antibiotics labeled for use in livestock production have passed a
stringent Food and Drug Administration approval process and have been shown to
be safe and effective.
FDA approves antibiotics to treat specific diseases or
conditions at specific dosage rates for a specific time period, and this
science-driven process helps protect human health while giving veterinarians and
cattlemen the tools they need to keep cattle healthy.
“Producers use antibiotics under the guidance of a
veterinarian, and extensive regulations govern the use of animal health drugs.
Many factors go into ensuring that veterinarians, farmers and ranchers have
access to effective antibiotics to maintain animal health,” Apley said.
“Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and
outright misrepresentations about why and how antibiotics are used in the cattle
industry. The truth is, cattle producers and veterinarians utilize many tools
including vaccines, herd health management, genetics and animal nutrition to
continue producing the world’s safest beef.”