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Food News: Restriction on Antibiotic Use in Livestock

After reading Michael Pollan's books — especially The Omnivore's Dilemma — and watching the new film Food Inc., I was pleased to read the news that the Obama administration is looking to restrict the use of antibiotics in livestock.

The principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs testified that feeding antibiotics to livestock to encourage rapid growth must stop, and that farmers should only be able to use the drugs with the supervision of a veterinarian. The reason behind this recommendation is that the rampant use of antibiotics has strongly influenced the development of bacteria immune to many treatments, rendering common antibiotics useless in fighting infections. This point of view has long been accepted by the medical community. According to estimates by the Union of Concerned Scientists, chickens, pigs, and cattle receive 70 percent of antibiotics used in the United States. While the American Medical Association backs the proposed restriction, it is no surprise that meat producers are opposed to it.

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Smacks83 Smacks83 6 years
So glad I buy my local, grassfed meats/poultry. Its a start but the biggest problem is that unless CAFO type places change their practices you are going to end up with diseased (ok, more diseased) meats. If people scaled back and ate less,but higher quality meats, this wouldn't be as massive an issue as it has become.Just look back 50-60 years ago. Steaks were for special occasions and more people cooked with lower-priced cuts of meat regularly because it was cheaper. Now if someone has to pay good money for a good steak, there is a protest and riot. We are willing to shell out good money for "designer" clothes and fancy cars, but are not really willing to shell out good money on GOOD food. Not everyone mind you, just most.
Smacks83 Smacks83 6 years
So glad I buy my local, grassfed meats/poultry. Its a start but the biggest problem is that unless CAFO type places change their practices you are going to end up with diseased (ok, more diseased) meats. If people scaled back and ate less,but higher quality meats, this wouldn't be as massive an issue as it has become. Just look back 50-60 years ago. Steaks were for special occasions and more people cooked with lower-priced cuts of meat regularly because it was cheaper. Now if someone has to pay good money for a good steak, there is a protest and riot. We are willing to shell out good money for "designer" clothes and fancy cars, but are not really willing to shell out good money on GOOD food. Not everyone mind you, just most.
Phil Phil 6 years
All the folks who have commented so far are spot on. This is an excellent idea, and it's about time after decades of kvetching from the sustainable farming community and those who actually care where their food comes from and what's being done to it. As jdeprima has said, livestock antibiotic use (or over-use) is a result of the state of animal welfare brought on by the centralization and industrialization of livestock. It's a little like the theater of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The theaters where deemed vile and dangerous, not necessarily because the plays were vulgar, but because when so many unhygienic people are concentrated into one place it tends to promote disease among the population. The same thing is being done in CAFO's minus the Marlowe and Shakespeare. Because of the systematic overcrowding of livestock in industrial farms, the threat of disease spreading among a livestock population is exacerbated, and so the current non-sustainable system creates a necessity for the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. The danger in BigAg's laissez-faire use of antibiotics is that, yes, it guards the livestock from diseases they're now more susceptible to because of industrial farming methods, but because of the overuse and misuse of the administered antibiotics, the bacteria meant to be prevented by antibiotics are being encouraged to mutate into strains resistant to the current antibiotics. The same concerns come up in the administration of vaccines for diseases like tuberculosis. Because of the sometimes widespread misuse of tuberculosis vaccinations, the disease has mutated into what are now known as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) which is resistant to at least two of first-line drugs used to treat TB, and extremely drug resistant tuberculosis which, like the MDR-TB, is resistant to at least two of the first-line treatments, and has also grown a resistance to three or more of the six second-line drugs. That these mutations are happening in impoverished communities around the world suggest that treatment of TB in these areas have become far more difficult and thus would be harder to contain and keep from becoming pandemic (which is why it's our personal responibility to concern ourselves with the prosperity of all people, even if they're on opposite ends of the world. The cause of swine flu is also greatly suspected to be a result of CAFO operations and their use of antibiotics as well. A suspected patient zero of the H1N1 virus is a four year old child in La Gloria, Mexico. The town of La Gloria is the site of a subsidiary of Smithfield Farms, which is the world's largest producer of pig meat. It would be prudent to note that this has not been proven, but is nonetheless extremely suspect. These antibiotics are being consumed by humans as well, though not directly. When a person bites into a piece of meat, or a fruit or vegetable fertilized at the farm by manure from the animals being treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics are cumulating in our system, which doesn't initially sound like such a bad thing, but can actually further promote the mutation of disease causing bacteria. And so, there's little question that current CAFO practices, including antibiotic misuse, contribute to the hyper-evolution of much of the bacteria which inflicts disease, and even death to the human species. So what is the solution? BigAg will contest the restrictions of anti-biotic use because they feel it would hurt the health of their livestock under their currently (multi-dimensionally) unsustainable system. They will feign straw excuses to contest the regulation of their industry, claiming that the free market would instead correct any operations which are disruptive to the population. Yet, time and time again their current operations have shown to be destructive not just to health care but even to the local environment in the form of soil and water contamination and to the global environment in the form of the emissions is takes to centrally produce the vast majority of the food these operations are producing. Unfortunately, the free market can only regulate when people are informed about the dangers of the system used to produce their food. BigAg has far too much power at its disposal to manipulate public opinion in the form of marketing and PR, and in the form of price controls, and in the form of the manipulation of lawmakers. Our food is being governed by BigAg, instead of by we the people and the government that represents the greater good of we the people. While government is (or should be) concerned with the welfare of the population, can we trust BigAg to concern themselves primarily with the welfare of the people, instead of primarily with the profits to keep their business as profitable as possible? So, government regulation is necessary to promote change for the betterment of the consumer. The restriction of antibiotics demotes the feasibility of CAFO's, and creates the necessity for regional, community based farms. The ridiculous transportation expense will be greatly diminished, and so the pressures of curbing CO2 production and easing climate change will be significantly alleviated. Perhaps greatest of all is that people can connect with their food again. They can realize that it doesn't magically appear in the supermarket, and that there are people needed to care for the creation their food, which nourishes the self, their family and the community. The food is less commoditized and impersonal. And more control is restored to the consumers in the communities the farms are meant to serve.
Phil Phil 6 years
All the folks who have commented so far are spot on. This is an excellent idea, and it's about time after decades of kvetching from the sustainable farming community and those who actually care where their food comes from and what's being done to it.As jdeprima has said, livestock antibiotic use (or over-use) is a result of the state of animal welfare brought on by the centralization and industrialization of livestock. It's a little like the theater of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The theaters where deemed vile and dangerous, not necessarily because the plays were vulgar, but because when so many unhygienic people are concentrated into one place it tends to promote disease among the population. The same thing is being done in CAFO's minus the Marlowe and Shakespeare.Because of the systematic overcrowding of livestock in industrial farms, the threat of disease spreading among a livestock population is exacerbated, and so the current non-sustainable system creates a necessity for the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. The danger in BigAg's laissez-faire use of antibiotics is that, yes, it guards the livestock from diseases they're now more susceptible to because of industrial farming methods, but because of the overuse and misuse of the administered antibiotics, the bacteria meant to be prevented by antibiotics are being encouraged to mutate into strains resistant to the current antibiotics.The same concerns come up in the administration of vaccines for diseases like tuberculosis. Because of the sometimes widespread misuse of tuberculosis vaccinations, the disease has mutated into what are now known as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) which is resistant to at least two of first-line drugs used to treat TB, and extremely drug resistant tuberculosis which, like the MDR-TB, is resistant to at least two of the first-line treatments, and has also grown a resistance to three or more of the six second-line drugs. That these mutations are happening in impoverished communities around the world suggest that treatment of TB in these areas have become far more difficult and thus would be harder to contain and keep from becoming pandemic (which is why it's our personal responibility to concern ourselves with the prosperity of all people, even if they're on opposite ends of the world.The cause of swine flu is also greatly suspected to be a result of CAFO operations and their use of antibiotics as well. A suspected patient zero of the H1N1 virus is a four year old child in La Gloria, Mexico. The town of La Gloria is the site of a subsidiary of Smithfield Farms, which is the world's largest producer of pig meat. It would be prudent to note that this has not been proven, but is nonetheless extremely suspect.These antibiotics are being consumed by humans as well, though not directly. When a person bites into a piece of meat, or a fruit or vegetable fertilized at the farm by manure from the animals being treated with antibiotics. These antibiotics are cumulating in our system, which doesn't initially sound like such a bad thing, but can actually further promote the mutation of disease causing bacteria.And so, there's little question that current CAFO practices, including antibiotic misuse, contribute to the hyper-evolution of much of the bacteria which inflicts disease, and even death to the human species. So what is the solution? BigAg will contest the restrictions of anti-biotic use because they feel it would hurt the health of their livestock under their currently (multi-dimensionally) unsustainable system. They will feign straw excuses to contest the regulation of their industry, claiming that the free market would instead correct any operations which are disruptive to the population. Yet, time and time again their current operations have shown to be destructive not just to health care but even to the local environment in the form of soil and water contamination and to the global environment in the form of the emissions is takes to centrally produce the vast majority of the food these operations are producing. Unfortunately, the free market can only regulate when people are informed about the dangers of the system used to produce their food. BigAg has far too much power at its disposal to manipulate public opinion in the form of marketing and PR, and in the form of price controls, and in the form of the manipulation of lawmakers. Our food is being governed by BigAg, instead of by we the people and the government that represents the greater good of we the people. While government is (or should be) concerned with the welfare of the population, can we trust BigAg to concern themselves primarily with the welfare of the people, instead of primarily with the profits to keep their business as profitable as possible?So, government regulation is necessary to promote change for the betterment of the consumer. The restriction of antibiotics demotes the feasibility of CAFO's, and creates the necessity for regional, community based farms. The ridiculous transportation expense will be greatly diminished, and so the pressures of curbing CO2 production and easing climate change will be significantly alleviated. Perhaps greatest of all is that people can connect with their food again. They can realize that it doesn't magically appear in the supermarket, and that there are people needed to care for the creation their food, which nourishes the self, their family and the community. The food is less commoditized and impersonal. And more control is restored to the consumers in the communities the farms are meant to serve.
Lyngay Lyngay 6 years
This is great news!
Lyngay Lyngay 6 years
This is great news!
michlny michlny 6 years
Baby steps.....
michlny michlny 6 years
Baby steps.....
jdeprima jdeprima 6 years
Right, the automatic and wholesale use of antibiotics is due to the horribly crowded and filthy conditions in which industrially farmed animals are raised. I think it's great that Obama wants farmers to limit antibiotic use, but in order for that to be feasible, the entire system will have to be dialed back to the time when animals were raised more naturally and humanely and thus didn't need constant medication. Expect howls from the mob when meat becomes more expensive and scarce.
bibliophilius bibliophilius 6 years
hmm..i don't think the antibiotics promote rapid growth in livestock. My understanding is that growth hormones increase growth and milk production, often leading to infection in the cows' udders (from producing more milk than they are designed to hold). The antibiotics are used to treat the infections... n'est pas? Recommend for viewing: The Corporation.
bibliophilius bibliophilius 6 years
hmm.. i don't think the antibiotics promote rapid growth in livestock. My understanding is that growth hormones increase growth and milk production, often leading to infection in the cows' udders (from producing more milk than they are designed to hold). The antibiotics are used to treat the infections... n'est pas? Recommend for viewing: The Corporation.
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