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Poultry producers will have the chance to consult on new antibiotics standards next month as part of a review by the Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) Scheme.

Antibiotics is an area that is being reviewed across all sectors as part of a standards review by the RTA.

Charlotte Johnston, RTA member scheme manager, said the poultry sector would have a chance to comment on the consultation, which is due to go out at the end of October, with new standards being implemented from October 2017.

See also: Farmers told to cut antibiotics use by one-fifth

Daniel Dring, group poultry welfare officer at PD Hook Hatcheries, welcomed the development, saying it was vital that standards were more clear and transparent for the whole food chain, given how the use of antibiotics in agriculture had risen up the agenda in recent times.

Mr Dring said PD Hook had – from 1 May – decided not to provide antibiotic medication to day-old chicks and had seen little change so far. “We’ve seen a small spike in early mortality but the end of the crop is about the same,” he told Poultry World.

He urged producers to pay close attention to floor eggs and nest hygiene and other welfare husbandry issues to ensure healthy broiler production without the use of antibiotics.

John Cessford, marketing manager at For Farmers, said he believed the UK could learn from Germany and Holland where antibiotics had been taken out of feed but that better management and husbandry was also key.

They were speaking at the annual industry Poultry Meat Conference at Daventry this week, where delegates heard how consumers were driving forward antibiotics-free production in the United States.

No antibiotics ever

Dr Steve Bolden, director of world technical services for Cobb – Vantress, said much of the US retail industry was going down the route of promoting birds with No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) or Raised Without Antibiotics (RWA) labelling.

Dr Bolden cited Perdue, the country’s third largest chicken producer, which has announced that two-thirds of its chickens are now raised without antibiotics and are being processed and marketed under the company’s “No Antibiotics Ever” label.

However, Dr Bolden said there was still pockets of resistance. Sanderson Farms remains a strong opponent of antibiotic-free production, citing animal welfare, food safety and sustainability issues for its current position.

William Garton, poultry specialist at Minster Veterinary Practice, said had seen an increase in birds becoming resistant to antibiotics: “Over the past five years, this is becoming more common,” he told the conference.