The threats are not limited to FMD. A large-scale outbreak of HPAI could be catastrophic not only for human health but also for the poultry industries. With annual revenues of $40 billion, the U.S. poultry industries are the world’s largest producer and second largest exporter of poultry meat (USDA-NASS, 2009a). A single outbreak of HPAI would halt U.S. exports of poultry products and, based on experiences in Europe, could result in probable declines in domestic consumption (Knowles et al., 2007). Three previous cases of BSE in the United States led to a dramatic and continuing reduction in beef exports to Japanese and South Korean markets that cost the U.S. beef industry between $3 and $4 billion. Similar consequences could follow the diagnosis of a single case, of classic swine fever, exotic Newcastle disease, and other FADs. In today’s global marketplace where there is increased trade in agricultural commodities, the risks of any one of those diseases reaching the nation’s shores are also increasing. At best, lost global markets would recover very slowly. Moreover, the integrated nature of the U.S. financial system would send shock waves to linked industries and damage a broad sector of the U.S. economy.
Of equal importance is food safety, which is affected by farm hygiene. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate the number of foodborne illnesses in the United States each year at 48 million, with 128,000 of those cases requiring hospitalization and resulting in over 3,000 deaths (Scallan et al., 2011). Many of these disease outbreaks are of animal origin (such as E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef and Salmonella in eggs) and many have resulted in massive food recalls (especially of eggs, spinach, and ground beef). The need for stronger producer-veterinarian relationships to address these issues is reinforced by the recent passage of the 2010 Food Safety Modernization Act, which expands the inspection power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over farms and increases the need for improved hygiene on the farm.
Despite their vital importance, there is concern that the services of food-animal veterinarians are now in jeopardy as numerous reports conclude that there is a critical shortage of food-animal veterinarians in the United States (AVMA, 2006; Fiala, 2006; Gwinner et al., 2006; Prince et al., 2006a,b; Sterner, 2006).
Shortly after World War II, more than half of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) members were engaged in food-animal practice. In 2010, that proportion has declined to 13% translating into fewer than 11,000 practitioners caring for food-animal populations of 93 million cattle, 5.5 million sheep, 66 million hogs, 338 million laying hens, 248 million turkeys, and 8.5 billion broilers (USDA-NASS 2011 a, b, c; USDA-NASS 2012 a, b, c). AVMA demographic studies confirm that there are unmet needs across the country: there are 750 counties that each have more than 5,000 head of livestock, yet have no resident veterinarian (AVMA, 2006). In Appendix C, Figure C-1 shows a map of animal density in counties that lack a resident veterinarian. In total they are home to over 10 million food animals.
This chapter explores and describes the multiple forces that underpin the reasons for the change in the numbers of food-animal veterinarians, and changes