By Laurel Hopwood, NEOSC Agriculture Chairperson
Maybe you’ve heard that McDonald’s, Tyson and Perdue call some of their chicken products antibiotic free. Does that offer you a sense of security that it’s ok to buy this chicken?
An accidental discovery happened in the 1940’s. American Cyanamid, the main manufacturer of antibiotics given to treat livestock, found when antibiotics were administered, the livestock grew faster. The pharmaceutical company had no idea why, but it gave the company an idea – add antibiotics to the feed, so the animals would eat them daily like vitamins. The motive was to feed more people cheap meat and ensure a healthy bottom line for the pharmaceutical and livestock industries.
Since then, more and more animals are being raised in crowded, inhumane factories. Not only are antibiotics in the feed, but also antibiotics are used in various stages of production for disease prevention and disease treatment. Public health experts have raised the red flag: Overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the significant concern about bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics.
The investigative arm of Congress, the U.S. General Accounting Office, found the use of antibiotics on dairy farms is widespread. To make matters worse, states routinely only test for 4 of the 82 drugs that could leave residues.
Consumers don’t want antibiotic residues in meat products and the industry responded. Although there has been some antibiotic reduction, the industry is doing bait-and-switch strategy. Antibiotics are still being used to make the animals grow faster, but industry is using the term “to prevent disease outbreaks.”
Many say the factory raising of pigs, chicken and cows for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth. That’s because meat production requires staggering amounts of land, water, and energy, compared to plant foods. Beans, nuts, grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables provide for all our nutritional needs. For a meat fix, there are farmer markets which sell meat from small farms, where our sentient being friends live a vibrant, humane life.