UConn researcher awarded $10M USDA grant for project to decrease use of antibiotics in poultry

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Source: The Hartford Courant

Chickens at UConn that were being used to study chicken vocalization in 2009.

A UConn researcher won a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund a project related to decreasing the use of antibiotics in the poultry industry, as well as community health and environmental sustainability.

The U.S. produces more than nine billion broiler chickens annually. And a recent USDA report valued annual broiler production at more than $31.7 billion. To maintain such high production rates, the industry relies on antibiotics to prevent diseases. However, the federal Food and Drug Administration recently issued a directive to poultry producers to begin phasing out the use of antibiotic growth promoters, following concerns abut the spread of antibiotic resistance.

“This project addresses how poultry production can be optimized without the use of antibiotics,” Indrajeet Chaubey, dean of UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, said at a news conference Monday. “At the same time, the project outcomes will improve the health of humans, as well as poultry, while minimizing the negative impacts on the environment.”

Faculty members will train students and conduct research on the issue, then share their findings with the poultry industry, also assisting Connecticut’s agricultural community and overall economy, Chaubey added. The project is slated to begin in September.

Project leader Kumar Venkitanarayana, associate dean of research and graduate education at the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, said the team of 30-plus researchers will focus on three main research areas: broiler health and welfare, broiler meat safety and human health and environmental health and reducing the adverse impacts of poultry farming on the environment.

“Education is a strong component of the project,” Venkitanarayana said. “We will be developing curriculum for training the next generation of poultry scientists in sustainable methods of farming.”

The research team includes experts in microbiology and molecular biology, as well as poultry nutritionists, poultry gut health specialists, animal welfare specialists, agricultural engineers, economists and sociologists, the university said. They will explore new-generation vaccine development to control diseases, the use of novel phytochemicals and probiotics to improve gut health and new food ingredients, such as insects.