From Atlanta, at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases
Between 1994 and 2000, Danish livestock farmers reduced their annual, nationwide use of antibiotics in livestock feed from 200 to 50 tons. Prevalence of the bacterium Enterococcus faecium in a form resistant to front-line antibiotics has declined sharply in chicken and somewhat in pork over that period, says Henrik C. Wegener, a microbiologist at the Danish Veterinary Laboratory in Copenhagen.
Danish meat producers stopped using antibiotics as growth enhancers in chickens in 1998. Use in swine, which has been decreasing, is slated to end this year. Incidence of animal diseases that the antibiotics might have prevented has risen very little despite the phaseout, says Wegener. In general, absence of the drugs adds roughly 1 week to the more than 6 months required to grow a pig to slaughter size, he says. This adds only about 75 cents per pig to the cost of production, he says. No increase in the price of chicken or pork has registered at the retail level.