US: Livestock Antibiotic Sales Finally Start Declining After Years on Rise

Decrease Follows Progress in the Chicken Industry, But Little Improvement Seen for Beef and Pork.

National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) | December 07, 2017

WASHINGTON – For the first time in many years, sales of antibiotics important to human medicine for use in the livestock industry have dropped — down 14 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to new data released today by the FDA.

This news follows a series of food industry commitments to reduce antibiotic use in chicken production in recent years. NRDC estimates that approximately 50 percent of the chicken industry has now made some level of commitment to curb unnecessary antibiotics used in their production.

Though an improvement, the results remain significantly above 2009 levels. To continue this downward trend, the pork and beef industries must follow the chicken industry’s lead in reducing antibiotic overuse.
NRDC and partner groups petitioned FDA last year for failing to sufficient action to reduce antibiotics overuse in livestock. That petition is still pending.

A statement follows from Avinash Kar, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“This course change provides a glimmer of hope that we can beat the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections. The progress is no doubt influenced by the groundswell of change we’ve seen in the chicken industry in the past few years—but beef and pork are lagging behind. It will take all hands on deck to keep our miracle drugs working when sick people and animals need them.”


The vast majority of medically important antibiotics in the United States are sold for use on animals raised for food production, not people. More than 96 percent of those drugs are routinely distributed en masse in feed or water—often to animals that are not sick to speed up growth and help animals survive crowded and unsanitary conditions on industrial farms.

This practice contributes to the growing epidemic of drug-resistant infections in humans. Leading medical experts warn that we must stop overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and animal agriculture, or else the life-saving drugs we rely on to treat common infections and enable medical procedures could increasingly stop working. The World Health Organization recently recommended the elimination of all uses of medically important antibiotics on animals that are not sick.

Conservatively, at least 2 million Americans are already infected with antibiotic-resistant infections every year, and at least 23,000 die as a direct result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more about today’s news here: Animal Antibiotic Sales Finally Drop, But Much Work Remains.


The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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