Antibiotics are potentially lifesaving medications, so long as they are still able to destroy the bacteria that cause life-threatening illness. When a bacteria becomes resistant to an antibiotic, it means that that antibiotic will no longer kill that bacteria, which limits the number of options available to manage a bacterial infection. This is why the World Health Organisation has stated that the rise in antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria is an urgent global health issue. To improve awareness of the issue, each year the WHO coordinates World Antibiotic Awareness Week (18 – 24 November).
The Australian chicken meat industry has a role to play in minimising the risk of AMR and is committed to playing its part to protect this precious resource for future generations. To this end, the ACMF has coordinated several initiatives over the past 20 years including commitments to not use antibiotics for the purposes of growth promotion, the adoption of policies restricting the use of antibiotics which are also of importance in human medicine, and development of chicken meat industry antimicrobial stewardship programs which are now adopted across the major chicken meat companies that between them produce >90% of the chickens produced in Australia.
The health and welfare of chickens is paramount to Australian meat chicken farmers and producers, which means sometimes antibiotics are required to manage bacterial infections in chickens that were not able to be prevented or controlled by other means. Consciously allowing chickens to suffer or even die from treatable bacterial infections is not something we support!
It turns out that the majority of Australians agree with the above sentiment. In a survey conducted last year, 56% of Australians agreed, without qualification, that it is appropriate to use antibiotics to ensure the health and welfare of a chicken flock. Interestingly, Australians are not the only nationality that shares this view – this was exactly what was recently discovered in a survey conducted in Europe, when the public was asked about their use and knowledge of antibiotics and their attitudes to antibiotic use in farm animals (https://ec.europa.eu/health/amr/sites/amr/files/2018_factsheet_en.pdf). In that survey, 56% also agreed outright with the statement that “sick farm animals should be treated with antibiotics if appropriate”.
Of the 44% of Australians that did not initially agree with the statement that it was appropriate to use antibiotics to ensure the health and welfare of chicken flocks, almost half (48%) agreed that such use would be appropriate if it posed no risk to humans. These community views align exactly with the chicken meat industry’s position that the onus is on the industry itself to ensure that antibiotics are only used in ways that do not compromise human health while ensuring that chickens are able to live a life free from treatable bacterial diseases.
Just one more thing … there is sometimes confusion around whether using antibiotics in chicken production means antibiotics end up on the chicken meat we eat. Decades of testing conducted by the National Residue Survey, demonstrates that chicken meat produced in Australia meets Australian government standards and is free of unsafe residues. For more information about the Australian chicken industry’s activities to minimise the risk of AMR bacteria visit the ACMF website https://www.chicken.org.au/chicken-health-welfare/
 ACMF Consumer Perceptions Study, 2018’ of 1,043 Australians 18 years and older. YouGov Galaxy Online Omnibus between 29 January and 1 February, 2018.