The study, published in the December issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, provides an economically detailed look at the use of antibiotics for growth promotion following dramatic changes that have altered the face of the U.S. swine industry in the last three decades. It is based on industry statistics compiled in the 1990s.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that for average modern-day swine facilities antibiotics boost daily growth and reduce swine death rates during the growth-finisher stage of production. Swine farmers operating a 1,020-head finishing barn, researchers found, realize a profit of 59 cents per pig in annual returns.
"Antibiotics used for growth promotion have a positive impact on production efficiency and producer profitability," said principal investigator Gay Y. Miller, a professor of veterinary pathobiology and of agricultural and consumer economics.
"When production is more efficient, there are more products for consumers at lower prices. Improved efficiency also means that fewer numbers of animals are needed to provide the same amount of product. Using less resources takes fewer farms to produce the same amount of pork, less manure is generated and you see a reduction of other environmental concerns."
Antibiotics have been used widely at subtherapeutic levels for livestock production since the 1950s, but such use has been questioned in recent years because of the rise of antibiotic resistance in human and veterinary medicine.
A previous study by Iowa State University had found the benefit of antibiotic use in the swine industry to be almost five times higher than the
Contact: Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign