Why is Food Supply Veterinary Medicine (FSVM) important?

 

Food supply veterinary medicine (FSVM) is key to the health and welfare of production animals as well as to the safety and wholesomeness of their products.   As our global population increases, the worldwide demand for food from animals is also expected to increase by 50% by the year 2020.  So, how big are we talking?

  • The USDA Economic Research Service reports that in January of 2012, there were 90.8 million head of cattle in the U.S.
  • It has been estimated that on any given day in the U.S., there are approximately 625,000 pigs in transit.
  • According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, the market value of livestock, poultry, and their products sold in that year was over $153 billion, which accounted for more than half of the total value of all U.S. agricultural products sold. 

Animals, just like people, can get sick, injured, or have complications giving birth and require medical attention.   In production paradigms, not only do veterinarians care for individual animals, but they also use their expertise to help prevent ailments and promote health and welfare throughout the herds and flocks with which they work.  Such population medicine has striking similarities with its counterpart for humans, which is public health.  Both public health and herd medicine strive to keep their respective general populations healthy and know that there are increased risks for those within the populations with weaker immune systems – the young, old, pregnant, or immunosuppressed – for which they need to be prepared.

Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of getting a cold or the flu from someone else.  Depending on an individual’s immune system, concurrent conditions, virulence of the bug, and other factors, some people don’t get sick, others do a little, and still others may get hit hard – falling out of commission for days to weeks.  In severe cases, some individuals may even die from the illness or complications from it.  The same thing can happen with animals, and while the veterinarian’s treating the sick ones, (s)he’s also using his/her expertise and resources to prevent other animals from getting sick, determine how the illness entered the herd, and address the facility’s preventive health and biosecurity measures to help prevent a similar introduction of disease in the future. 

Certain diseases, such as foot and mouth disease (FMD), classical swine fever (CSF), and highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), would cause devastation at many levels – from individual farms to international trade - if they were to occur in the United States.  FMD alone is projected to cost over a billion dollars if it were to spring up within our borders.  The AVMA, which is a member of the Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP) Food and Agriculture Sector, is keenly aware of the national devastation possible by certain animal diseases. 

Check out what the AVMA’s doing to promote food supply veterinary medicine.