The National Cattlemen's Beef Association Monday 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.
NCBA said Beef 101 is an educational program developed for staff and Congress members to learn more about the beef industry.
Dr. Mike Apley, DVM, PhD, a clinical pharmacologist with Kansas State University, discussed the judicious use of antibiotics in the beef industry as a tool to maintain herd health.
"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.
He added that farmers and ranchers typically use veterinarians to develop a management plan for raising healthy animals.
During the presentation, Apley said that the figure of 70% of antibiotics used for animals and humans are therapeutic. 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.
Last year, the Consumers Union, public policy arm of Consumer Reports, released a study calling for a reduction in the amount of antibiotics that are used to treat animals. The group said antibiotics are used to make animals "grow faster or prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary conditions."
The group also called on grocery stores to stop selling meat from animals raised without using antibiotics.
But Apley noted during the presentation that the use of antibiotics are subject to significant government regulation, and there is some confusion about how they are used.
"Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and outright misrepresentations about why and how antibiotics are used in the cattle industry," Apley said.
"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," he said.