An Indian employee distributes feed to chickens at a poultry farm on the outskirts of Hyderabad. As per reports, the Indian poultry industry has contributed around $229 million USD to the gross national product and is witnessing steady growth during the current financial year. Image Credit: AFP

Thiruvananthapuram: Non-vegetarianism thrives in Kerala, but over the past couple of days markets in the state have witnessed the strange phenomenon of customers feeling less enthused by the chicken counters. The trend is a result of wide media coverage about antibiotics being widely used in poultry farms that can adversely affect chicken meat consumers.

The average daily consumption of chicken in the state is estimated at around 2 million kilograms. Reports indicate that the consumption has fallen drastically over the past few days to as low as 400,000 kilograms following the antibiotic-in-chicken scare.

A study finding by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released last week said large-scale unregulated use of antibiotics in the poultry industry in the country could spell danger for Indians as it would lead to consumers of poultry to develop resistance to antibiotics. They could also fall prey to several other ailments, the report said.

In the study conducted by CSE to test residues of antibiotics in chicken, it was found that there were antibiotic residues in as much as 40 per cent of the chicken tested. Sunita Narain, director-general of the centre said, “Antibiotics are no more restricted to humans nor limited to treating diseases. The poultry industry uses antibiotics as a growth promoter.”

In one of the samples collected by CSE, it was found that a cocktail of three antibiotics was used in poultry. In many cases, poultry farms mix antibiotics with feed to promote growth and prevent disease and infection. CSE also feels that their study is only preliminary in nature and the effects could be on a larger scale.

The tests, however, were conducted in and around Delhi, far away from where chicken is supplied to the Kerala markets. The All Kerala Poultry Federation officials told local media that the widespread reports about the likely harm to humans by consuming antibiotic-fed poultry had led to the steep fall in chicken sales.

Kerala poultry sector has broadly two kinds of farmers — those who run their own farms and another group who contract farm, getting the chicks, feed and medicine from units outside the state and sell the full-grown birds back in a buy-back arrangement.

However, the sluggish demand for chicken has not yet reflected in the prices in Kerala, with a kilogram of chicken still priced between Rs100 (Dh6.01) and Rs110 per kg.