New antibiotics for food animals decreased from 1992 to 2015

China expected to be using over 10 times more antibiotics for food production than the U.S. by 2030.

Krissa Welshans, Livestock Editor

December 18, 2019

2 Min Read
Cattle at feed bunk

As antibiotic use in the agriculture industry has become a greater policy and consumer focus, the animal pharmaceutical industry has recalculated potential revenues from antibiotic products as well as investment in new product development. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), the share of food animal antibiotics as a portion of all veterinary drug approvals declined from 62% in 1992-94 to 40% in 2013-15.

The decline, ERS noted, reflects increasing development of new animal drugs approved for companion animals, from 30% of all approvals in 1992-94 to 47% in 2013-15. Yet, the amount U.S.-based animal pharma has spent on research and development has increased from approximately $604 million in 1989 to $1.1 billion in 2017, with a growth rate of 2.7% per year.

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Given the overall decline in the number of all animal drug approvals between 1992 and 2015, ERS said the decline in the share of food animal antibiotic approvals also reflects a decline in the number of approvals for such drugs.

Between 2015 and 2017, total U.S. sales of antibiotics for food animal production also declined 30% (by weight), after annual increases in each year between 2009 and 2015.

Even if regulations and consumer preferences decrease the amount of antibiotics used per animal in the U.S. and European Union, however, ERS pointed out that the amount of antibiotics sold still could conceivably increase if the number of animals in these regions increase.

In fact, the report said demand for food animal products is rapidly increasing in certain countries, leading to changes in meat production practices. Meat production in China, Brazil, India, Vietnam and Pakistan is growing rapidly, and this growth accompanies a shift from subsistence to commercial production, with increasing levels of animal concentration, production modernization and antibiotic use.

Although few data on antibiotic use in food animal production are available in these countries, estimates suggest that China, Brazil and India will be the first-, third- and fourth-largest users of food animal antibiotics by 2030, respectively. While the U.S. is predicted to be the second at that time, China is expected to be using over 10 times more antibiotics for food production than the U.S.

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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