Ensuring eggs are safe for your family is a top priority for egg farmers and they are committed to fully complying with all government regulations as applicable to their farms.
Hormones are Banned in Egg Production
Many consumers do not know that the FDA banned the use of hormones in the egg and poultry industry in the United States more than 60 years ago1. Adding to the confusion, some retailers and distributors add a “No Added Hormones” or similar message on their egg or poultry product packaging. Misunderstandings may also arise due to the ability of beef producers to utilize hormones legally in production practice, due to proven safety and efficacy2.
Administering Hormones is Difficult and Costly
Even if hormones were permitted in the egg industry, it is unlikely they would be used. Extensive research conducted by a multitude of sources in avian nutrition has proven little to no benefits with the use of added hormones in poultry meat and egg production, plus it just simply is not practical.3
Chickens cannot actively benefit from the oral consumption of hormones, and research shows that chickens must be injected multiple times a day to see improvements of any functions. Not only is it unrealistic for a person to carry out this daunting task, but there are also many drawbacks to the financial aspects of such practices.
Instead, producers have focused on providing a well-maintained environment and maximizing the genetic potential of chickens to naturally increase production and reach the optimum performance of birds.
Hormones Natural Occur in all Living Things
Hormones are naturally occurring and found in all living things including plants, animals and people. They are natural internal messengers sending signals to direct important cell and tissue functions, like growth and development. Due to their natural occurrence, hormones are found in nearly everything we consume: meats, eggs, dairy products, vegetables, and fruits. But, no growth or production hormones are ever fed to pullets (younger hens) being grown to be egg-laying hens nor during the egg-laying period.
Egg farmers enjoy the same eggs with their families as they sell to consumers, so they understand and put a strong emphasis on ensuring food safety in every phase of egg production.
Dr. Hongwei Xin was recognized for his years of service to the egg industry at the Egg Industry Forum on April 17. He previously served as the director of the Egg Industry Center (EIC) and assistant dean and a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in the Departments of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering and Animal Science at Iowa State University. On April 1, Xin began his new position as dean for AgResearch at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.
In an interview with WattAG, Dr. Xin said “This change of position was not an easy decision, and a big part of that was the wonderful people in this industry. However, I am confident that the center and the industry will continue to move forward in this beautiful partnership that has developed.”
Dr. Xin is the Chair of UEP’s independent Environmental Scientific Panel (ESP) and plans to continue in this role. “Dr. Xin has been a friend, leader and dependable researcher to UEP and the egg community for more than 20 years,” said UEP President Chad Gregory.
Susan J. Lamont, a Charles .F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences and animal science professor, has been appointed the EIC interim director.
Egg farmers are committed to producing safe, high-quality eggs and keeping their hens healthy and free from disease. “The first and most important step is prevention. But if a hen gets sick, the humane thing to do may include giving antibiotics to help it return to good health. Not only is that what’s best for the hen, it also helps make our eggs safer,” said Dr. Larry Sadler, UEP’s Vice President of Animal Welfare.
Egg farms may use a limited number of FDA-approved antibiotics, provided they comply with FDA guidelines for usage. The FDA sets standards that let farms know exactly how much medication to give to help an animal recover from an illness. These strict FDA regulations and regular testing are designed to ensure antibiotic residues are not found in eggs in the food supply. Due to the effective use of vaccines and on-farm disease prevention, only a small percentage of egg-laying flocks ever receive antibiotics. If they do, it is under the supervision of a veterinarian and only for a short time to treat a specific disease or to prevent a recurring disease.
Eggs from hens treated with antibiotics cannot enter the food supply until they are totally safe. It’s important to know eggs can only be labeled as antibiotic-free if egg farmers choose not to use any antibiotics in feed or water as the pullets (young hens) are growing or when hens are laying eggs. Certified organic eggs must be antibiotic-free by regulation.
When FDA started tracking antibiotic sales for food-producing animals in the U.S., there was a steady increase in use, but in the past few years, a new trend has emerged. Sales of antibiotics important to human health have dropped 41% since 2015. Chickens account for only five percent of the estimated sales of medically important antibiotics.
Making sure antibiotics remain safe and effective is an important responsibility shared by many, including farmers, veterinarians, and animal health companies. Well before the FDA issued guidance and regulations related to antibiotic use, the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP), with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), developed judicious use policies.