Most of the turkey growers that Minnesota veterinarian Jill Nezworski works with mix antibiotics into their birds’ feed only to cope with disease — quelling a cough outbreak or easing a bout of avian diarrhea.
A minority, however, also use the drugs to boost their birds’ growth and improve the conversion of feed into body mass. Some hog farmers, cattle ranchers and chicken producers do the same sort of thing.
But decades of concern over the effects of animal antibiotic use on the health of the humans at the end of the food chain have boiled to the point where federal regulations are in the works that could curb their use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is on the verge of releasing new guidelines on animal antibiotics to limit their application to animal health.
The stakes are high in Minnesota, a national leader in turkey and hog production, and where antibiotic use is common on the farm.
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