THE UK’S broiler sector cut antibiotic use in 2021 when compared with a year earlier despite the sector facing significant labour and disease outbreak challenges.

The headline figure for broilers dropped from 16.3mg/kg PCU in 2020 to 13.66mg/kg PCU in 2021, according to the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance’s latest report.

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It covers 2021 figures and confirms both the broiler and turkey sectors remain under the industry-set targets of 25mg/kg PCU and 50mg/kg PCU respectively, although the usage number for turkeys ticked upwards.

For the turkey sector, the use went up from 25.7mg/kg to 42.55mg/kg between 2020 and 2021, the report said this was because of disease challenges.

Poultry sector sources say they expect a level of variance in the figures as different disease challenges or feed quality affect animal husbandry each year.


The broiler sector first reported it had hit its target in 2016 with 17.1mg/kg PCU before dipping to 9.9mg/kg PCU in 2017. Since then, it has risen before falling again to last year’s figure.

The report says: “The sector is currently in the midst of the worst case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) seen, not only in the UK but across Europe, the effects of which are devastating to businesses.

“Combined with rising production costs, ongoing labour shortages and challenging EU-UK trade conditions, British poultry meat businesses are being pushed to capacity.

“Nevertheless, ensuring responsible usage of antibiotics remains a priority for British poultry producers.”

Egg sector

The egg sector recorded a drop in total usage from 3.1 tonnes of antibiotic active use in 2020 to 2.46 tonnes in 2021.

RUMA’s report said: “The significant drop in antibiotic use in laying hens owes much to heightened biosecurity practices in the sector and ongoing use of vaccines as part of preventative health programmes across the industry.”

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate’s (VMD) Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (UK-VARSS 2021) report, was released at the same time, and shows UK antibiotic sales for food-producing animals have reduced by 55% since 2014, to 28.3 mg/kg.

This represents the lowest sales to date.