Leverage Factor (animal feed)

Calculations on this page were done using the uncertain.py Python script, in order to tighten up otherwise very broad ranges.

It is difficult to project the number of deaths that might result if action isn't taken, and getting antibiotics out of animal feed is just part of the solution. Superbugs to kill 'more than cancer' by 2050 projects 10 million deaths per year for all antimicrobial resistance, but the underlying report Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a Crisis for the Health and Wealth of Nations indicates this is based on assumptions which might be open to challenge (100% or 40% antibiotic resistance developing), and with the biggest drivers being TB and malaria, which might best be modeled separately. Conversely, Antibiotics: US discovery labeled 'game-changer' for medicine, suggests that the supply of antibiotics has yet to be exhausted.

Getting the antibiotics out of animal feed is easy. Congress just needs to pass a law, and came close to doing so in the 111th session. To light a fire under Congress though and get them to do it this time is the job of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition. (Note: KAW only accepts grants and doesn't accept individual donations at this time).

We guesstimate the cost of successfully sponsoring legislation focusing on antibiotic resistance at $10m-50m/year for 5 years. We make this estimate considering the estimates made on our Lobbying and Advocacy page. This estimate is about a quarter that of some of the broad areas surveyed on account of it being a narrow focused issue. We don't reduce further because there is opposition from the agricultural lobby. This estimate is perhaps, roughly, 10 times the current spending level on the issue.


Legislation and regulations to minimize the use of antibiotics in animal feed.


$10m-50m/year x 5 years

Real world outcome

Delay emergence of serious resistance by 10-20 years saving 140,000-300,000 lives/year

Outcome estimates

Estimated costs based on a substantial scaling up of KAW's current estimated budget; 80% chance of legislative success; detailed research by KAW establishes 127k-192k illness cases/year and 9.3k-27.9k deaths/year in the US from food animal associated illness, and on average around 80% of pathogenic bacteria tested from food animals resistant to one or more antibiotics; if resistance continues to grow more of these cases will result in death; making a stab in the dark we guess 40-70% of cases would result in death due to antibiotic resistance; apply a factor of 2-3 because US taking a stand is likely to result in other countries following; problem being averted: 127k-192k x 40-70% x 2-3 = 140k-300k deaths/year; discount assuming resistance problem will occur 20 years out at 0%/year; 140k-300k x 10-20 x $2m x 80% x 1.00**20 = $2.7t-7.8t.

Economic value in Western terms


Leverage Factor

15,000 - 110,000