Antibiotics are a lifesaving medicinal tool that doctors and veterinarians use to fight disease and keep people and animals healthy. The main reasons for chickens to receive antibiotics are to keep the birds healthy, to treat disease and to prevent diseases from establishing themselves in the flock. The preventative use of antibiotics is only applied in specific situations.
It is easy for disease to spread amongst a chicken flock as they are social animals that live in enclosed, climate-controlled barns which protect them from the weather and predators. To quickly and efficiently treat any sick animals, the antibiotics are administered through their watering system or included with their feed rations.
Canadian chicken farmers support the responsible use of antibiotics that have been approved by the Veterinary Drugs Directorate of Health Canada to ensure food safety, animal health and animal welfare. There are three reasons to administer antibiotics. First, to help sick chickens feel better! Secondly, for food safety reasons farmers want to ensure that no sick animals enter the food chain. And third, healthy birds grow more efficiently than sick ones. This means a higher production rate, better returns for the farmer and a lower price at the grocery store.
All Canadian chicken farmers must be certified in the Raised by a Canadian Farmer Animal Care Program that outlines mandatory standards for animal health and handling. It requires sick or injured birds to be handled humanely by trained personnel using approved methods and the farmer must have a flock health plan in place and a veterinarian on call. Further, all Canadian chicken is free of antibiotic residues. Canada has strict regulations with respect to antibiotic use and withdrawal times to ensure that chicken reaching the marketplace does not contain residues. This is monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.