The global poultry market was valued at US$ 267,332.3 million in 2018, and is expected to exhibit a CAGR of 3.0% over the forecast period 2019–2027, in terms of revenue. Rapid growth in consumer demand for livestock products in emerging economies such as China and India, owing to rising poultry meat and egg production and consumption is expected to fuel growth of the global poultry market. On the other hand the Indian poultry market, consisting of broilers and eggs was worth INR 1,750 Billion in 2018. The market is further projected to reach INR 4,340 Billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 16.2% during 2019-2024.

Consumers these days are very health conscious and choose to consume animal products which have been raised in a safe environment. This is why poultry farms need to take strict measures in prevention and control of infectious diseases by ensuring cleanliness and healthy diet. However, it is difficult to keep poultry farms and stock completely disease free as new disease agents can emerge from time to time. Contracted diseases can reduce the egg production and growth rate of flocks which will in turn impact the economic output. Moreover, genetic changes in the birds have also made them more susceptible to diseases. Rising demand coupled with the need for greater generation of meat products, increasing awareness about the need for better hygiene and the rise of a more conscious consumer is gradually ushering in a series of changes in poultry rearing practices.

Rising awareness about the need to reduce Antibiotics usage

According to a recently concluded study it was established that most of the antibiotics used in the poultry industry are increasingly losing their efficacy against pathogenic microorganisms. Similarly, the use of antimicrobial agents in animal husbandry for therapeutic has been linked to the development of resistant bacteria. If the usage of antibiotics is not restricted in poultry there are chances that they may come in the final product that is eggs and meat which can further lead to increase in antibiotic resistance. This is because all microorganisms have an inherent capacity to resist some antibiotics which is why excessive use of antimicrobial agents has caused rapid surge and development of AR.

Antibacterial resistance is the ability developed in bacteria to combat against antibacterial agents. However, the main reason because of which antibiotics for animals are used is that they help treat infections and indirectly help in their growth and development. Chicken is one of the most farmed animal species in the world which makes it a leading contributor to the poultry industry. Nonetheless, use of antimicrobials in chicken plus other animal production will accelerate the development of AR in pathogens which poses danger to human beings.

This is because when an antibiotic is used in improper way, it may leave behind some bacterial strains that resist the drug which can multiply and become the dominating population. This dominating population can also be transferred to others. These resistant bacteria can transfer from poultry products to humans when they consume meat contaminated with these pathogens. This has prompted many countries to withdraw antibiotics from being used in animal production and set up regulatory authorities for selected antibiotics as well encourage the use of bacteriophages. This has also led to a surge in demand for healthier and safer alternatives to antibiotics for disease prevention and control.

Bacteriophages as a Better Alternative

Bacteriophages have emerged as a viable alternative to reduce antibiotic usage in poultry rearing.  Bacteriophages are natural micro-organisms made up of only genetic material namely DNA and RNA plus protein.  Moreover, they also do not damage the beneficial microbiome balance. These naturally occurring organisms only eliminate selected bacteria. More and more companies are embracing bacteriophages instead of antibiotics when it comes to poultry production. This is largely because bacteriophages are safe as they are only able to infect bacterial cells not human or animal cells. Without the presence of their bacterial host they become inactive within 48 hours. In comparison to antibiotics a single phage can destroy a multiple bacterium by multiplying in bacteria itself which is why fewer doses are required per administration. Moreover, phages also do not dissociate from bacterial targets once irreversibly adsorbed.

Phage Therapy is now emerging as a useful tool in controlling bacterial infections and at the same time is encouraging the growth of healthy poultry. With the use of Artificial Intelligence it can be determined whether the phages are lytic or not as only lytic phages are used in animal health. This is because lysogenic phages are dormant and embed themselves in the bacterial cell wall to live off it without destroying it. On the other hand lytic phages cause lysis which is destruction of bacteria.

The Need for Quality Feed

When it comes to chicken it takes less than three hours for the feed to be digested and absorbed. To compensate for the relatively short digestive tract and rapid digestion transit time, high-performing birds need easily digestible nutrient-dense feed where nutrients are critical. The rates of genetic change in growth and feed efficiency over the years have also changed the physiology of the birds. Nutrient requirements and nutritional management have therefore changed to harvest maximum of the genetic potential of the new strains. The high genetic potential of current poultry strains can only be achieved with properly formulated feeds that are protein and energy-dense.

Moreover, the feed additives to use for destruction and prevention of bacterial infection in farmed animals as well as transmission to humans must be regulatory approved as well as should eliminate pathogens. It should also be non-toxic with no side effects on poultry and must be easy to apply and use. Other things which poultry farm owners and managers must keep in mind are the composition and quality of feed, nutrient value, digestibility, moisture retention, palatability as well as any possible hazards that long term consumption may cause.