The National Pork Board continues to take a prominent role in the ongoing conversation about antibiotic use in pork production. From the Don’t Wait… Be Ready! national producer awareness and education campaign, to ongoing engagement with consumers and influencers, to increased investment in antibiotic research, the National Pork Board is taking unprecedented action on this globally important topic.
“Today, more than ever, we take our role as pig farmers very seriously when it comes to using antibiotics responsibly,” said Derrick Sleezer, outgoing president of the National Pork Board and a pig farmer from Cherokee, Iowa. “Just as in human medicine with patients and doctors, we realize that producers and veterinarians play a role in maintaining the effectiveness of antibiotics for future generations. Our industry’s We CareSM principles serve an essential role in guiding what we do to protect people, pigs and the planet.”
Much of the National Pork Board’s 2016 efforts have centered on ensuring that all producers are aware of and prepared for the Jan. 1, 2017, implementation of new regulations from the Food and Drug Administration that will affect on-farm antibiotic use. Materials available from the Pork Checkoff’s online Antibiotics Resource Center (pork.org/antibiotics) explain how producers should prepare for the expansion of the veterinary feed directive (VFD) and the elimination of growth promotion use of antibiotics deemed medically important to human health.
“We are confident that America’s pig farmers will be ready for the new antibiotic regulations coming in 2017 because they know it’s the right thing to do,” Sleezer said. “We’re asking producers to sign the Pork Checkoff’s “I’ll be ready!” pledge at this year’s World Pork Expo to show pig farmers’ commitment to doing their part for antibiotic stewardship.”
Beyond producer education efforts, the National Pork Board continues to invest Checkoff funds on alternative antibiotic technologies, studying the environmental fate of antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and more. Work also is underway to find new ways to evaluate models and metrics for collecting data on antibiotic use in the U.S. pork industry. All of these efforts have the additional scrutiny of the National Pork Board’s Blue Ribbon Panel on antibiotic stewardship. The third-party panel, which began meeting in February, will provide objective, independent counsel on the National Pork Board’s current and future research, education and communication priorities.
On the consumer side, the National Pork Board plays a leading role in how to understand and address the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This was clearly demonstrated when the Pork Checkoff hosted a national dialogue by The Atlantic Media Group called Resistance: The Antibiotic Challenge. The March event in Washington, D.C., brought together key opinion leaders from human health, animal health, government, pharmaceutical, retail and consumer segments to discuss the challenge of responsible antibiotic use in the 21st century. Representatives from the National Pork Board, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Veterinary Medical Association and other organizations shared what is being done to address concerns about antibiotic resistance.
“This year, we’ve demonstrated that U.S. pig farmers are dedicated to finding solutions to antibiotic resistance and to doing our part in responsible antibiotics use,” Sleezer said. “Producers have a solid track record on related initiatives, such as the Pork Quality Assurance® Plus program and an investment of more than $6 million in Checkoff-funded antibiotic research since 2000. These steps demonstrate how our producers care about this important topic and stand ready to do what’s required to keep pigs healthy and the American food supply safe.”
The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, science and technology, swine health, pork safety and sustainability and environmental management.