US Pork Industry Makes Antibiotic Progress

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The Food and Drug Administration has published its annual summary report on the sales of antibiotics. The latest data shows a 33 percent decline in the most critical class of antibiotics intended for use in food animals. When combined to the data found in the 2016 report, it confirms a 43 percent reduction in this class of antibiotics from the 2015 level. National Pork Board Director of Producer and Public Health Dr. Heather Fowler says the industry is at the lowest level since the government started tracking this data in 2009. This report highlights a relatively smooth transition after the Veterinary Feed Directives went into effect. You’ll find more details in this edition of Pork Pod.


Don Wick


Heather Fowler, Director of Producer and Public Health, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:15 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, its Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is Dr Heather Fowler, who is the Pork Checkoff director of producer and public health. Heather, the Food and Drug Administration has published its annual summary report on the sales of antibiotics. Certainly an issue that the Pork Checkoff has taken a lot of time working on. Give us your perspective. What did you see in this report?

Heather Fowler: 00:35 We’re really happy with the results, I think, and I’m sure the FDA is excited with the results as well. We saw a continual decline, sales, remember this is sales and not on-farm use, but it’s the best estimate we have at the time, shows the lowest it’s been since they started recording in 2009.

Don Wick: 00:56 Certainly we’ve seen changes, Heather, as it relates to the industry after the veterinary feed directive. What impact does that have?

Heather Fowler: 01:04 Yes. And so this year’s report was the first year that it actually collected, or included data since that rule went into place. And so we’re really happy to see continual decline again of 33 percent again and the lowest that we’ve seen since 2009. I think these results really speak to our ability in the swine industry to implement this rule. Prior to it, we instituted an 18 month long educational program to make sure our producers were aware of the rule, were prepared to implement the rule when it went into place, and we had a very seamless acceptance of the rule. And then now we can see the results and really kind of really pat ourselves on the back of a successful campaign in this regard. I think this results, all these results, excuse me, also point out that, or really showcase that our producers are, in fact, committed to doing what’s right for people, pigs and planet as it relates to antimicrobial use and stewardship.

Don Wick: 02:05 We should talk about the need for continuous improvement. Obviously we’ve gone down that path. Do you see more work continuing?

Heather Fowler: 02:14 I think there’s always room for improvement. And in the swine industry, again, we really, really do abide by that rule of continuously improving. And so with each year as these results come out, we’ll celebrate our successes, but continue to strive to do what’s right again for people, pigs and planet.

Don Wick: 02:32 Why is this issue important?

Heather Fowler: 02:35 Antimicrobial stewardship is, or antimicrobial use in resistance, I should say, is a One Health issue. It has inputs and impacts across human, animal, and environmental health. And our producers, again, understand what’s important for people, pigs and planet, and that means protecting the overall efficacy of antibiotics, so that they continue to work in pigs, but also in other areas.

Don Wick: 03:00 Certainly the Pork Checkoff is not working in a silo here. You’re collaborating with others in this whole issue of stewardship.

Heather Fowler: 03:11 Yes, and it really speaks to the One Health approach and how we have embraced the One Health approach. So we, the same week as the FDA sales report press release and report came out, we also released a public announcement of our achievements working across different industries and with other stakeholders as it relates to stewardship. So the Pew Charitable Trusts put out a statement announcing a framework that we, again, with other stakeholders work to develop. So I think it’s another great achievement and it shows that we in the swine industry are continuing to take a One Health approach to this very important issue.

Don Wick: 03:50 We’re just talking about transparency and seems like this is really a showcase for that whole effort.

Heather Fowler: 03:56 Oh, most definitely. And we’re again, excited to be a part of it. And really are looking to continuously improve in this space. So we’re not calling it quits here. We’re not just going to celebrate and then go home at the end of the day. We’re going to continue to work in this space and continuously improve.

Don Wick: 04:14 If folks want more information, where would they go, Heather?

Heather Fowler: 04:17 They should go to our website, You can also go directly to to learn more about or to access the resources that we currently have available on antibiotics. And as it is a public health issue and a One Health issue.

Don Wick: 04:35 Dr Heather Fowler from the National Pork Board, thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, please visit