Jones, Matthew Kirkland
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As the population on earth continues to grow, consumers are growing more and more cognizant of the animal protein that they consume. In their decision to eat meat from food animals, people want to know the animals were humanely reared. In addition to animal welfare concerns, these consumers do not want the animals they ingest to have been reared using antibiotics. Due to these concerns, the poultry industry is attempting to reduce antibiotic usage while continuing to produce more chickens. In order to achieve these goals, “antibiotic alternatives” are being used in the diets. Many of these alternatives are broadly classified as feed additives and include things such as aluminosilicates, essential oils, organic acids, prebiotics, and probiotics. The rapid transition away from antibiotic usage has outpaced scientific research, and new products are currently being used in the commercial poultry industry in various capacities throughout the vertically integrated system. The goal of the current research was to study a variety of these antibiotic alternatives in broiler production. Although some of the products tested in the current research improved bird growth and/or feed efficiency during some phases of the broiler grow-out, other products were detrimental to bird growth and feed utilization. The aluminosilicate- based product tested improved calcium and phosphorus digestibility in broilers and reduced inflammatory processes in the birds, as evidenced by a reduction in an acute phase protein. The current research suggests that not all of these antibiotic alternatives are suited for all scenarios of broiler production. Though many of these products are intended for use throughout the broiler lifecycle, some are not beneficial and are actually detrimental under controlled conditions. Some of these products may be suited to aide in growth in the face of significant disease challenges, but using these products with more mild stressors is not recommended. Further studies will lead to better understanding of how each feed additive can be best used to maximize health and welfare of a flock. In doing so, the poultry industry may be able to meet the demands to produce antibiotic-free chickens.