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What if antibiotics in animal feed make a comeback?

What if the underlining reason of going away from antibiotics no longer existed? How would that be possible?


Europe is resting after a long period of trying to remove growth-promoting antibiotics from animal feeds. The U.S. is just starting, but it looks determined to take it one step further — that is, remove even antibiotics used for therapeutic purposes. To this end, we must keep in mind several Northern states of the European Union are already working to reduce the use of therapeutic antibiotics. So, one might be excused to believe the world is working against the notion of using antibiotics in animal production.

But what if the underlying reason of going away from antibiotics no longer existed? How would that be possible? Very simple: the medical industry could come up with a new generation of antibiotics specific for animals. That is, antibiotics that would not promote resistance to those used in human medicine. If that was possible, and my instinct says it is coming up sooner than we might want to believe, then why not allow antibiotics back into animal feeds?

If this happened, what would be the fate of those additives now being promoted as antibiotic replacements? Some would disappear, but I do not believe this would be the case for everything. In another words, I don’t expect pig and poultry formulas would return to those pre-1990s. This is because we have come to appreciate the effects of several additives that go beyond the simple scope of controlling gut microflora; for example, additives that promote digestive secretions, enhance innate immunity, speed up maturation of the gut apparatus or promote gut health by absorbing excess water, etc. All these actions are not possible by using antibiotics alone.

Thus, in brief, if some form of new antibiotics would make it possible to use them again, I foresee some "smart" additives surviving if they managed to offer add-on features. So additives suppliers are already thinking about it!

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