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Pros and Cons of Paylean in the Swine IndustryResearch Paper

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¶ … Ractopamine on Swine Growth

Following approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late 1999, ractopamine has been used to promote swine growth in the United States, although its use is banned in some other countries. This paper reviews the relevant literature to provide a timely discussion concerning the use of ractopamine to promote swine growth, followed by an assessment of the impact of this additive on animal health and/or human health and/or the environment including a summary of experimental results establishing the scientific facts and the respective positive and negative impacts of this research information within the scientific community and society (i.e., animals, humans, the environment). Finally, a summary of the research and important findings concerning the use of ractopamine to promote swine growth are provided in the paper's conclusion.


The swine industry represents a vitally important part of agriculture in the United States as well as a fundamental component of the diet and way of life enjoyed by millions of Americans (Pork production 1). Notwithstanding its economic and gastronomic contributions to American society, the swine industry is comprised of relatively few operators, numbered less than 100,000 pork-producing farms in 2000 (Pork production 2). Today, the Corn Belt states and North Carolina account for the majority of the swine produced in the U.S. (Pork production 2). Innovations in swine husbandry have facilitated larger production operations, usually in modern enclosed buildings that are designed to provide the animals with protection from disease and predators (Pork production 2).

Interestingly, the digestive system of swine is more similar to the human digestive system than other ruminants such as sheep and cattle which can be fed grasses and forages (Pork production 3). Therefore, the diet used in commercial swine production facilities mainly consists of ground corn (for energy) and soybean meal (for protein) with various additives such as minerals and vitamins included to promote health and optimal growth patterns (Pork production 3). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Rations are closely tailored to optimize health and growth at each stage in their life. Many producers even modify the ration based on the pig's gender" (Pork production 3).

As pigs grow older, their feed is usually modified to include additional corn for energy and less soybean meal for protein (Pork production 4). The overarching objective of these feeding regimens is to provide optimal use of rations during each stage of growth (Pork production 4). One feed additive that has proven efficacy in promoting optimal feed utilization and growth patterns is ractopamine, marketing under the commercial brand name "Paylean" marketed by Elanco Animal Health (Li and Preckel 272). According to Elanco Animal Health, "Paylean is a feed ingredient for increased rate of weight gain, improved feed efficiency and increased carcass leanness in finishing swine weighing not less than 150 pounds, fed a complete ration containing at least 16% crude protein for the last 45 to 90 pounds of gain prior to slaughter" (Paylean Insights 2).

In late 1999, Paylean was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the swine industry (Li and Preckel 272). The studies to date have confirmed that ractopamine promotes feed efficiency and lean growth rates with corresponding alterations in swine feed intake, body weight growth rates, and dressing percentage (Li and Preckel 272). Not surprisingly, then, the use of ractopamine has increased substantially over the past decade and a half since it has been shown to provide swine producers with the ability to raise leaner animals with less feed (Li and Preckel 272). The research to date also confirms that ractopamine has no adverse effect on the quality of meat (Paylean Insights 2). According to the vendor, "Meat from Paylean-fed pigs can be exported to leading U.S. markets, and Paylean is approved for use in 26 countries" (Paylean Insights 2).

The efficacy of ractopamine is based on its ability to promote leaner muscle growth with less corresponding fat during the later stages of growth (Paylean Insights 2). The additive operates by concentrating nutrients away from fat depositions and toward leaner weight gain (Paylean Insights 2). Because feed represents the most significant cost in swine production, ractopamine can reduce swine production costs while simultaneously improving the quality of meat (Paylean Insights 3). In sum, the studies to date have shown that ractopamine:

Increases average daily gain;

Improves feed efficiency; and,

Increases carcass leanness (Paylean Insights 3).

These claimed benefits are congruent with the FDA's Freedom of Information Summary for Elanco's commercial brand name, Paylean (9 and 45). The FDA states that the use of Paylean is indicated: "For increased rate of weight gain, improved feed efficiency and increased carcass leanness in finishing swine, weighing not less than 150 lbs, fed a complete ration containing at least 16% crude protein for the last 45 to 90 lbs of gain prior to slaughter" (2). In addition, the DFA Freedom of Summary for Paylean emphasizes the safety of the additive's use for human consumption: "The product's human food safety in finishing swine has been established in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Summary for the new animal drug application for PAYLEAN (NADA 140-863) in finishing swine dated December 22, 1999" (2). A summary of the results of a study of 160 progeny of the Genetiporc V300 sireline evaluated by the FDA concerning the benefits of including Paylean in swine diets is provided at Appendix A in Table 1.

It is important to note, though, that the studies to date also indicate that the benefits of ractopamine are duration and dose dependent. In this regard, Paylean's vendor reports that, "Traditional strategies encouraged feeding Paylean at 4.5 g/ton for 28 days, but trial data supports increasing the dose to 6.75 g/ton and feeding for 35 days for improved performance" (Paylean Insights 3). The results of one of the more recent studies concerning the efficacy of ractopamine in promoting optimal growth and feed utilization patterns indicated that the feed additive can alternatively achieve improved feed efficiency, increased weight gain and carcass benefits (Paylean Insights 4). Depending on the finishing strategies used by swine producers, these benefits can translate into these corresponding benefits. For instance, according to Elanco, "For producers finishing long on space, the added days mean your first-cut hogs are getting the benefits of the improved feed efficiency. For those finishing short on space, the rest of the barn gets the carcass and weight-gain benefits" (Paylean Insights 4).

The use of ractopamine for swine production, though, represents a complex decision based on a number of different factors. Besides the duration and concentration of ractopamine, growth responses to feeding patterns in swine are also based on a wide range of factors, including the growth environment, general nutritional levels, and genetics (Li and Preckel 272). Moreover, Li and Preckel emphasize that, "Dietary protein concentrations must be adjusted simultaneously with Paylean concentration to obtain the maximum lean growth response" (272). These constraints mean that the value of the finished swine is determinative of whether the use of ractopamine is justifiable. Moreover, the stakes are very high in the swine industry are there is little or no room for experimentation, particularly among smaller operators (Li and Preckel 272). For example, Li and Preckel caution that, "With so many variables-weight to begin Paylean supplementation, dietary protein level, genetics, environment, etc.-the cost of on-farm experimentation to determine the optimal Paylean concentration is prohibitive" (272).

Because experimentation is cost prohibitive and based on this wide array of variables, Li and Preckel formulated a simulation model in order to identify optimal feed management strategies for Paylean that takes into account nutrition levels, an economic model and a biological growth model. The model developed by Li and Preckel was intended to take into account the various levels of dietary protection and ractopamine concentrations as inputs to determine corresponding growth rates as outputs following the protocols used by Schinckel et al. (2003). The model developed by Li and Preckel also builds on earlier research by Millar et al. (1990) who evaluated the general effects of optimal marketing weight on swine production profitability.

The model developed by Li and Preckel also simulates body weight and body component growth patterns, primarily for fat and lean tissues. According to these researchers, "The model is general in the sense that it can be calibrated to genetic and environmental conditions specific to the farm for which management recommendations are to be developed" (Li and Preckel 272). Four basic payment schemes based on the differences swine producers receive for fat tissue vs. lean meat, respective were used in the Li and Preckel simulation model as follows:

SCHEME 1. Producers are paid for carcass weight (and so lean and fat are valued equally), with discounts on under-weight and over-weight carcasses.

SCHEME 2. Producers are paid for carcass weight, with discounts for fatness and premiums for leanness based on the lean percentage estimated from muscle and fat depth.

SCHEME 3. Producers are paid separately for lean and fat, with the lean-to-fat price ratio set… [END OF PREVIEW]

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