The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) recently gave an overview to more than 70 congressional staff members on antibiotics used in food producing animals as part of NCBA’s “Beef 101” educational series.

“Beef 101” is an educational program for members of Congress and their staff, developed to continually educate those on Capitol Hill on issues important to the beef industry. The session featured a presentation by Dr. Mike Apley, DVM, PhD, a clinical pharmacologist with Kansas State University, who discussed with attendees the judicious use of antibiotics in the beef industry as one of the critical tools to prevent the spread of disease and maintain a healthy herd.

“The goal of producers is to manage cattle to avoid infectious diseases. Antibiotics are a valuable resource for treating both human and animal diseases,” Apley said. “Farmers and ranchers work with veterinarians to implement comprehensive herd-health management plans, and it’s important for veterinarians and producers to have the ability to best manage herd health and raise healthy cattle, which ultimately means a safe food supply.”

During the presentation, Apley covered common myths about antibiotic use, such as the misconception that 70 percent of antibiotics used in the United States for human and animal uses are used for non-therapeutic use in food animals. In fact, Apley stated, some antibiotics calculated into that total have never been marketed in the United States. He added that a large percentage of the antibiotics used to treat and prevent illness in animals are ionophores, compounds not used in human medicine.

Another myth dispelled during the session is that animal antibiotic use is not subject to significant government regulation. Contrary to that myth, all antibiotics labeled for use in livestock production have passed a stringent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process and have been shown to be safe and effective.

FDA approves antibiotics to treat specific diseases or conditions at specific dosage rates for a specific time period, and this science-driven process helps protect human health while giving veterinarians and cattlemen the tools they need to keep cattle healthy.

“Producers use antibiotics under the guidance of a veterinarian, and extensive regulations govern the use of animal health drugs. Many factors go into ensuring that veterinarians, farmers and ranchers have access to effective antibiotics to maintain animal health,” said Apley.

"Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and outright misrepresentations about why and how antibiotics are used in the cattle industry. The truth is, cattle producers and veterinarians utilize many tools including vaccines, herd health management, genetics and animal nutrition to continue producing the world’s safest beef.”

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