The BPC shares with RUMA its reflections on the past ten years of Antibiotic Stewardship and its dedication to continually evolving

In the fifth and final part of features about the Poultry Meat sector, highlighting the sector’s 10 years of antibiotic stewardship, British Poultry Council (BPC) Technical Director Máire Burnett, shares with RUMA the sector’s reflections on the past ten years of antibiotic stewardship and looks ahead to the future.

BPC Technical Director, Máire Burnett, says:

‘Poultry makes up half of the meat on Britain’s plates. That means we are in a unique position of responsibility: as producers of safe and nutritious food, as employers creating jobs in communities, and as experts in bird health and welfare. Operating to world class standards is at the heart of our production systems. 

Our Stewardship makes stuff happen. It is a very simple thing to say, but there is a lot wrapped up in committing as a collective to bring around the change you want to see. Over the past ten years, we have seen effective solutions optimise our systems. Our vets prescribe the most appropriate treatment for our birds, with no compromise to their health and welfare. On-farm management practices are continuously reviewed to safeguard the efficacy of antibiotics and produce food consumers trust. We are leading the way in the sustainable use of antibiotics and have carved the path for other sectors, both in the UK and globally, to follow suit. That is something to be proud of.RUMA Maire Burnett 

The scrutiny that comes with stewardship is pretty special. It gives us the space to focus on the important stuff. If we are looking at the sustainability of our food system and preserving the efficacy of our antibiotics, this means building into the trust consumers have in our food and the systems that produce it.

We are operating to a level that is expected of us but, most importantly, a level that we expect of ourselves. We are open about what we value in our systems, and the transparency that comes as a result of scrutiny, has given us the right results. We rear a billion birds a year for tables across the nation and none of them receive preventative routine treatment. Usage has dropped by 74% in ten years whilst production continues to increase. That is not to say we are done yet. BPC’s Stewardship has demonstrated what is possible. We are dedicated to evolving because it is that mentality, which is core to the Stewardship, to making stuff happen.   

Saying that, the backdrop we are working against is also evolving. We have left the EU and that collective commitment to lead the way via the Stewardship will be tested by trade challenges. There is a balance to strike between the food we produce at home and where imports enter the picture. What we take with us moving forward is that it is not just about what others do. It is about what we have done to get this far in bird health and welfare, and what we want to achieve. Responsible British producers prioritise the bird, value standards and back scientific progress. That commitment is one we should expect from all our trading partners. 

Accelerating into this next era of the BPC Stewardship, we will continue our work by refining our systems and upholding our position at the forefront of international efforts to tackle resistance. At the bedrock of a sustainable food system are transparency and accountability: these in combination underpin our commitment to producing safe, affordable, nutritious food, without compromise to our values or our standards.’