RUMA Sector in Focus campaign – Poultry Meat: About the BPC Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme

In the second article about the Poultry Meat sector, the British Poultry Council (BPC) shares with RUMA details about the inception and work of the BPC Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme.

The scheme has been fundamental to the reductions in antibiotic use that have been achieved by the sector over the past decade. The British poultry meat sector was the first livestock sector to voluntarily develop a strategy for the responsible use of antibiotics, finding the path for other sectors to follow suit. Since then, BPC member businesses have successfully reduced their total antibiotic use by nearly 75%. As the sector producing half the meat eaten in Britain every year, BPC’s Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme plays a crucial role in delivering good bird health and welfare, ensuring responsible use of antibiotics, safeguarding the efficacy of antibiotics, and helping produce food people can trust.

The BPC Antibiotic Stewardship is based on the successful implementation of the three R’s (Replace, Reduce and Refine), supported by the principles of animal husbandry, hygiene and stockmanship.

RUMA Poultry Campaign 2022

About the BPC Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme

The BPC’s Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme was established in 2011, bringing together expertise from producers and poultry veterinarians. The main objectives of the scheme are:

  • To maintain the integrity of all classes of antibiotics to support both human and animal health
  • To collect and monitor use of all antibiotic classes in the UK poultry meat sector
  • To work with the UK government sharing antibiotic use data with the VMD
  • To support further research into ESBLs in GB broiler flocks
  • To promote and apply best practice at all steps of production

The Scheme focuses on antibiotics considered to be of ‘most highly critical importance for human health’ by the WHO. The VMD annually collects and publishes data on antibiotic products sold that are licensed for use in food-producing animals. Until the BPC’s Antibiotic Stewardship Scheme was established, only VMD’s sales data was used to monitor antibiotic sales in livestock. In 2011, BPC and its members took proactive steps to begin collecting data measuring usage, not just sales – representative of over 90% of UK poultry meat production – to identify where the scheme should take action.

BPC Chairman, Graeme Dear, says: “BPC Antibiotic Stewardship has been highly successful in driving best practice across the industry. Our farmers and veterinarians are setting an example for others around the world to follow through sustainable use of antibiotics. They uphold the UK’s position at the forefront of international efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance by effectively managing usage and protecting the health and welfare of birds, while producing food that consumers can trust.”

When looking to the future, Mr Dear says: “Through the Scheme we continue to focus efforts on ongoing and future challenges such as continuing to examine the link between antibiotic use and resistance in the poultry production chain so we can facilitate sustainable change across the industry.

“We remain committed to working closely with our members to better understand why and when antibiotics are used, and in what quantity. This allows us to transparently communicate our actions and share best practice on sustainable use to make a meaningful contribution to the global debate on antimicrobial resistance. Through ongoing coordinated action between poultry meat farmers, processors and the scientific community, as well as policy makers at all global levels, we will continue preserving the efficacy of our antibiotics.”

RUMA Poultry Campaign 2022


In summary

BPC Antibiotic Stewardship ensures sustainable use of antibiotics to protect the health and welfare of birds, to safeguard the efficacy of antibiotics, and to produce food consumers’ trust.

As a result of BPC Antibiotic Stewardship, set up in 2011, the poultry meat sector became the first UK livestock sector to pioneer a data collection mechanism and share antibiotic usage data with the government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). In the last ten years, the poultry meat industry has led the way in understanding its own use of antibiotics and its impact as well as sharing best practice on the sustainable use of antibiotics with other livestock sectors. Data collected by the BPC is published every year as part of the UK-Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (UK-VARSS) report.