Campus News

CAES department head quoted in The Atlantic

Todd Applegate, head of the poultry science department at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, was quoted in The Atlantic about chicken without antibiotics.

For decades, farmers have used low doses of human antibiotics to fatten their chickens. In the past few years—with evidence linking antibiotics on animal farms to drug resistance in humans—poultry producers and restaurant chains have pledged to limit antibiotics in their chickens. The shift has farmers scrambling to break their reliance on antibiotics and find new ways to help their birds grow. Scientists at the Danish company Novozymes recently found that an enzyme in pigsty fungus helps clear dead cells in chickens’ guts. The enzyme, which the company and its animal-nutrition partner DSM are calling Balancius, allows the birds to absorb more nutrition from food. Balancius is the latest in a category of products that have gained popularity since the phasing out of antibiotics.

“It is tough,” said Applegate, whose areas of expertise are poultry nutrition and intestinal physiology. For farmers, antibiotics were a wonder supplement, and the new products just “don’t have the same range of functions that the antibiotics convey.”