Economic Impacts of a Ban on Feed-Grade Antibiotics - The Danish Experience

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McDonald's Corporation, one of the largest buyers of meat in the U.S. fast-food industry, recently adopted a policy that prohibits its direct suppliers from using medically important antibiotics as growth promotants in food animals after 2004. The implications of such a voluntary ban in the United States remain to be seen, but a recent study by researchers in the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University provides some comparable evidence from Denmark. Professors Dermot Hayes and Helen Jensen compiled information they gleaned from interviews with Danish veterinarians, farmers, economists, and industry analysts and evaluated the economic costs of an antibiotics ban for pork producers. Denmark first imposed a ban in pork production at the finishing stage, which was considered a success, with producers encountering few additional costs. When the country further implemented a ban at the weaning stage, producers encountered severe health problems and incurred large costs. In addition, a complete ban actually increased the total antibiotics used, as Danish veterinarians were forced to prescribe additional therapeutic agents—which were those used most often in human medicine. The researchers estimate that a U.S. ban would increase costs by approximately $4.50 per animal in the first year. The total cost of a ban to the U.S. pork industry spread across a ten-year period could be in excess of $700 million. See the full briefing paper, "Lessons from the Danish Ban on Feed-Grade Antibiotics." Contact Dermot Hayes, 515-294-6185, Helen Jensen, 515-294-6253, or Sandy Clarke, CARD communications, 515-294-6257.

(Released June 2003)