Nothing could be further from the truth. Chicken farmers care deeply about this issue. They too want to preserve effective treatment options for their children and family.
Canada’s chicken farmers, and indeed the entire chicken industry, are working closely together, and spending millions of dollars on research to better understand the chicken immune system and to investigate antibiotic alternatives. We have proactively implemented a sector-wide strategy to control, monitor and reduce antimicrobial use while working alongside industry and government partners to safeguard poultry health and welfare. The continued availability of antimicrobials, and their subsequent responsible use, is important to safeguard poultry health and welfare.
The strategy includes:
- Defining antimicrobial use and analyzing antimicrobial resistance trends
- Reviewing best management practices
- Ensuring effective controls of antimicrobial use in Canada
- Educating stakeholders on the issues of antimicrobial use and resistance
- Researching and determining the availability of alternative products
At the farm, since 1998, chicken farmers have implemented a mandatory On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program (OFFSAP) to standardize food safety production practices whereby all farms receive yearly audits. A part of that program includes a reporting form that is sent with every flock to processing. Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarians verify these reports to determine that antibiotics were used as per their label or with a veterinary prescription and that the antibiotics are being used at the appropriate dosage for the appropriate application. Any product failing this investigation is not allowed on the market. Additionally, as part of the annual OFFSAP audit, auditors review the antibiotic usage and ensure withdrawal times are adhered to. Remember too, the majority of antibiotic use at the farm is overseen by a veterinarian, either at the feed mill or via the farmers’ veterinarian.
- The “flock sheet” is a form used by farmers to record specific information about such things as feed, any antibiotics, medications or vaccines used, number of birds placed, etc.
- A preliminary sheet is sent to the processor 3 to 4 days ahead of the flock and the complete information is required on the flock sheet with the shipment itself.
- If there were any serious violations (illegal processes, withdrawal times not adhered to, serious abuse, etc), the CFIA vet who works at the plant would not approve the slaughter of those birds and the farmer would not get paid.
- Any farmers in violation of the on-farm food safety program can face stiff penalties
Farmers are also actively involved in funding research examining antimicrobial resistance and alternatives to antibiotic use, to the tune of several million dollars. In 2010, we also established a working group with industry stakeholders with the objective of reducing antibiotic usage. The sector-wide strategy listed above results from the work of this group.
Chicken Farmers of Canada is working with the Canadian Integrated Program for Antibiotic Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS) of the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct on-farm surveillance to monitor antibiotic resistance and use.
This surveillance program, along with a collaborative information sharing group between government and industry will provide further insight into antibiotic use and resistance in the Canadian chicken sector. In turn, this will help us determine future antibiotic policies.
The Public Health Agency of Canada, through CIPARS – which has been active since 2002 – performs surveillance at processing and retail outlets to assess antimicrobial resistance trends. This newer on-farm surveillance is another piece in the puzzle and becomes part of the larger CIPARS report which is used by industry and government to guide public health policy.