BY Angela Success
Taking care of chickens with-additive antibiotic feeds has become the norm, with the advent of commercialised poultry production. Incidentally, the use of these feeds for chickens may cause more harm than good to the society in a long run.
Daily Sun spoke to Dr. Peace Mbok, a practicing veterinary professional on antibiotic administration on chickens and the effect on human health.
Are there any clear distinction between the free-range chicken and its egg and the commercially breed ones?
There are differences in the meat and egg quality. Free-range chickens are not given drugs like the commercial ones. The chickens are given leftover food from the house; they move around and pick their food from plants, eat insects, worms and grains. They don’t come down easily with infections like the other ones with lower immunity. Occasionally, they come down with viral diseases. At times, you see their necks turning. That is called new castle disease. But the ones that are breed commercially are vaccinated against such diseases. They are only infected if they not properly treated.
Local chickens also are not feed with what is seen as balanced diet as for commercially breed ones. They mature late and lay very few eggs. Meat from them is also smaller because they feed themselves more or less. On the other hand their counterparts are feed with balanced diet. Feed with enough nutrient, including amino acids, grow faster and produce more eggs. They can mature in two months. The local ones, on the other hand, will stay up to six months before you can eat them, even though they are tastier. Some people even slaughter them at six weeks because they are already up to one kilogramme.
Can the quality of feed they eat affect the eggs and the meat?
You see, when they are compounding feeds, there are certain trace elements – amino acids – you put in them. Like carbohydrates, you must have your corn, add animal and plant protein. Add your minerals and amino acids, once they are given in the right proportion. When you use yellow corn, the yolk becomes more golden. Feeding them with white corn will give you whiter egg yolks.
What happens when you change their feed?
Changing of feeds does affect them. It can make them produce fewer eggs and grow slower. People are advised, when they want to change feeds, to do so gradually, mixing the new with the old, little by little, until they get used to the new one. Chickens react to stress easily, change in weather even affect them. When you vaccinate them they can also react negatively.
How safe are antibiotics for people who eat chicken meat and eggs?
Antibiotics given chickens can get into their eggs and meat. There is something we call antibiotic residue. Nobody checks or regulate the administration of antibiotics to the chickens. The vaccination or medication has instructions, which limits their administration and consumption period, but only professionals adhere to these. There is what we call withdrawal period; it may be two, three days or more. It indicates the period a particular medication may stay in the body and egg of the chicken before it could be consumed, to avoid the ingestion of such residues by humans.
Most people inject their dying fowl and precede to slaughter or sale them. This is also the scenario you meet at the poultry section in the local markets. The effect it has in human beings is what we call antibiotic resistance. Once a human being takes these products, with the residues not in the right proportions for humans, they will make it difficult for the same type of medication or even others to work against infections in the body. It makes difficult for certain infections to be treated because of the resistant these things have caused.
What is the way forward?
NAFDAC should be strengthened. The agency should absorb veterinary doctors as part of its team to regulate, oversee and monitor the distribution of drugs for poultry products, among others, in the country. Once they are there, they can have offices that help other health officials check the meat brought in for human consumption. That way antibiotics abuses will reduce in the country. Every slaughterhouse should have a laboratory to check the quality of products sold to the public.