New Zealand is now one of the few countries in the world whose poultry industry does not use antibiotics preventatively on its birds.
Poultry accounted for 34% of sales of antibiotics to the horticulture and primary industries in 2021. That figure dropped to 4% in 2022 and by the end of this year, it will be down to 1%, making poultry one of lowest users of antibiotics in those sectors.
News of the drop in antibiotic usage came as World Antimicrobial Awareness Week was underway globally.
NZ Food Safety has just released its annual report on antibiotic sales and in it, deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle says that a continuing reduction in sales of antibiotics relevant to human health is “good news”.
NZ poultry is by far the largest contributor to the overall downward trend in the report, Poultry Industry of New Zealand (PIANZ) executive director Michael Brooks said.
“Reduction in use of antibiotics of human relevance to prevent bird illness has been one of our industry’s key sustainability goals. We have dropped from among the highest users of antibiotics in 2019, to one of the lowest in 2022.
“This drop is the most significant reduction in antibiotic use across any New Zealand primary or horticultural sector in recent times. Importantly, the New Zealand poultry industry has never used antibiotics classified as ‘highly’ or ‘critically’ important to human health by WHO.”
The World Health Organisation has identified antimicrobial resistance as one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity.
Brooks said each of PIANZ meat chicken companies used a mix of tools and methods to achieve the outcome.
“By adopting practices such as improved stock management and gut support products for the flock, the major chicken companies were able to reduce reliance on the commonly used antibiotic, zinc bacitracin.”
“Future sales of antibiotics to poultry will now only be to treat birds if they become unwell, rather than to prevent illness.”