Earlier this week, the FDA asked Alpharma, a division of Pfizer to cease distribution of Roxarsone, an anti-parasitic, from poultry production. Richard Lobb, spokesperson for the National Chicken Council, a trade association for the chicken companies, based in Washington DC:
"It worked very well a long time. It was used very responsibly by veterinarians in our industry. But FDA made kind of a new finding, something they didn't like, they saw certain types of arsenic - at extremely low levels - but even those low levels disturbed the FDA. So even though they're really not a health threat to humans, they decided that the product should be withdrawn."
So, where does the industry go from here? Lobb:
"There are other alternatives to Roxarsone that are available. They are more expensive but companies are going to have to look at those and at certain management techniques, things you can do on the far -- making sure that the litter is dry -- things of that nature. All of which costs money. You know, you have to run the fans more to keep the litter dry and things like that. It's going to effect the bottom line of the companies and possibly the farmers, as well. There are not that many animal health products available for broilers, only a fraction of those that are technically approved by the government are actually made available by pharmeceutical manufacturers. Only some of those are actually used by the companies so the arsenal is not very big and they've just taken another piece of it away."
Lobb says that while a cost effective pharmaceutical measure is being taken away, it pales in comparison to what the cost of corn is doing to the cost of raising poultry:
"It is generally felt that this has been a very cost effective means of dealing with this particular problem so that if other means are used and it costs more that could indeed end up adding to the overall cost of poultry production. Most people think that the cost of chicken is going up anyway, it has been going up. Some companies have had to raise prices. The real driver there however, has been the cost of corn. We're getting close to $8 a bushel for corn, which is just extremely expensive, and that's the biggest thing companies are dealing with right now."
Plus the cost of transportation will do more to raise the cost of poultry at the retail level.
Spokesperson for the National Chicken Council, Richard Lobb