Industry Glossary

Learn the Lingo


Antibiotic residue: Antibiotic residue refers to molecules that remain in meat from animals that have been treated with antibiotics. Source: Animal Health Institute (AHI) (paraphrased)

Antibiotic resistance: Antibiotic resistance is the result of microbes changing in ways that reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents to cure or prevent infections. Source: CDC

Antibiotics: Antibiotics are powerful drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria. They are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, most sore throats and the flu. Source: FDA

Antimicrobial: Antimicrobials are products that kill microorganisms or keep them from multiplying (reproducing) or growing. They are most commonly used to prevent or treat disease and infections due to microorganisms. Antibiotics are antimicrobials for bacteria. Source: American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Antimicrobial stewardship: Antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) is the systematic effort to educate and persuade prescribers of antimicrobials to follow evidence-based prescribing, in order to stem antibiotic overuse, and thus antimicrobial resistance. Source: Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA)


Bacteria: Bacteria are single-celled organisms that live in and around us. Bacteria are necessary for us to function normally, but in some conditions may cause sickness such as strep throat, ear infections, or pneumonia. Source: CDC


Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): CDC is part of Health and Human Services that is responsible for protecting human health and safety through the application of disease prevention and control measures, environmental health standards and the promotion of educational activities. Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Control (of disease): Control of disease means the disease is present in a percentage of a herd or flock and antibiotics are administered to decrease the spread of disease in the flock/herd while clinically ill animals are treated. Source: AVMA


Drug: A drug is a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease in humans or animals. Source: Webster's Dictionary


Efficacy: Efficacy is proof of a product’s effectiveness and is used in approving animal health products. Source: AHI

Efficiency: Efficiency refers to the ratio of the output to the input of any system, or skillfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort. In agriculture, efficiency can refer to the growth rate of animals per resources (for example feed efficiency refers to the rate an animal converts feed to pounds of gain). Source: Webster’s Dictionary

Epidemiology: The study of the spread of disease, or disease patterns at the population [herd/flock] level. Epidemiologists are often sent to investigate outbreaks. Source: CDC


FDA-approved (medication, drug or therapy): The standards and processes for reviewing pharmaceuticals intended for animals are the same in most respects as those used for reviewing drugs intended for humans. In fact, approval for both human and animal drugs is overseen by the FDA. However, the safety assessment for food animals is more stringent than that for human antibiotics in three ways: 1) If there are risks to humans, FDA will not approve the antibiotic for animals, 2) FDA requires a food safety assessment to ensure that meat is safe and 3) FDA studies the pharmaceutical thoroughly to guarantee it does not increase the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria in food. Source: AHI

Feed Additive: A feed additive is a substance added to animal feed to improve its nutritional value, promote growth or control disease. Source: AHI

Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The FDA is the Department of Health and Human Services agency that regulates the development, approval and monitoring of food, drugs and cosmetics. Source: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)


Growth promotion/ feed efficiency: Growth promotion means that the antibiotics are administered, usually in feed, to increase growth rates and improve feed efficiency. The goal of this is to maximize production from the animals and use fewer resources. Source: AVMA


Infection: An invasion of an organism by a pathogen such as bacteria or viruses, often causing an immune response from the host. Some infections lead to disease. Source: CDC


Judicious Use of antibiotics: When the decision is reached to use antimicrobials for treatment, control, or prevention of disease, veterinarians should strive to optimize therapeutic efficacy and minimize resistance to antimicrobials to protect public and animal health and well-being. Source: AVMA


Label claim: A label claim refers to how drugs can be used and what they may control. Source: FDA


Medically important antibiotics: Medically important antibiotics refer to antibiotics that are important for treating human disease. Source: FDA

Medicated feed: Medicated feed refers to animal feeds bearing or containing animal drugs. FDA regulates the feed mills approved to manufacture feed using some medicated articles. Source: FDA

Medicated water: Medicated water refers to medication administered through the watering system. Source: FDA

Microbes: Organisms so small that a microscope is required to see them. Microbes are also called microorganisms. Source: CDC

Microorganisms: Microorganisms are living organisms that are too small to be seen individually by the naked eye (they are usually viewed with microscopes.) They include bacteria, viruses, protozoa and some fungi and algae. You might see with your naked eye a group of these organisms – such as mold growth on bread – but you can’t see each individual fungal cell without a microscope. Source: AVMA


National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS): NARMS is a collaboration of the CDC, FDA and USDA designed to monitor antimicrobial resistance of human enteric [intestinal] bacteria. Source: AHI

Non-therapeutic use: The use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion or feed efficiency (production use) is considered non-therapeutic use. Source: FDA (paraphrased)


Pathogens: Bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi that can cause disease. Source: CDC

Prevention (of disease): Prevention of disease means there is a known disease risk present and the antibiotics are administered to prevent infection of the animals. Source: AVMA


Therapeutic use: Therapeutic use means antibiotics are used for treatment, control and prevention of disease. Source: AVMA, FDA (paraphrased)

Treatment (of disease): Treatment of disease means that the antibiotics are administered to treat sick animals. Source: AVMA


Vaccine: A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. It typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-carrying microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins. Source: AHI

Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD): The VFD category of medicated feeds was created by the Animal Drug Availability Act of 1996 to provide an alternative to prescription status for certain therapeutic animal pharmaceuticals for use in feed. Any animal feed bearing or containing a VFD drug shall be fed to animals only by or upon a lawful VFD issued by a licensed veterinarian in the course of the veterinarian's professional practice. Source: AVMA

Veterinary oversight: As an important mechanism for helping to assure appropriate use of certain antibiotics, the veterinarian is involved in the decision-making process regarding antibiotic drug use. Source: FDA (paraphrased)

Virus: A strand of DNA or RNA in a protein coat that must get inside a living cell to grow and reproduce. Source: CDC


Withdrawal periods: The withdrawal period specifies the number of days that must pass after the last antibiotic treatment before the animal can enter the food supply. For medications used in food-producing animals, withdrawal periods are listed on the label and must be strictly followed. Source: DA Food Insight Fact Sheet

World Health Organization (WHO): The WHO is part of the United Nations and an autonomous international health organization to promote global attainment of the highest level of health. Since a large number of known diseases are zoonotic – meaning they can pass between animals and humans – WHO interacts with the animal health community and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). WHO also interacts with the agriculture community in the context of Codex Alimentarius, the arm of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO that creates international standards for food trade. Source: World Health Organization (WHO)