Photo Credit: Simon Aughton
Very interesting article on antibiotics in meat. Another reason why I am glad I'm a flexitarian. It's one thing to know that you shouldn't eat meat from animals treated with antibiotics.. but it's more important and influential if you know why. I've chosen the main points from the article and posted them here:
The use of antibiotics in industrial food production was introduced as a preventative measure to avoid animals getting sick, allowing more to grow to weight and be shipped off to market. But this resulted in healthy livestock receiving medication and becoming a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant strains of many bacterial species including E. coli. Many antibiotics are not actually prescribed and in fact do not legally need to be, which is baffling to say the least as we approach a world with fewer and fewer effective antibiotics.
The agricultural use of antibiotics and their effects are not just limited to the agricultural industry. The antibiotics used in food production are in many cases the same or at least very closely related to the drugs you take when you are sick so the generation of antibiotic-resistant mutants in livestock also reduces the effectiveness of the drugs you take for your illnesses. Antibiotics are a precious and finite resource where every use potentially lowers the effectiveness for everyone in the community.
It’s not impossible to turn this around but it does need a shift in thinking. Many argue that without antibiotics agricultural food production would stop but we already have the solution to this. Vaccines are very safe and much more effective than antibiotics. They are also significantly cheaper in the long term. Changes in animal husbandry practices and improved hygiene have also proved to be viable alternatives to antibiotic use. All we need is the political will to tackle this problem to ensure the effectiveness of antibiotics persists into the future.
So what can we do? Lowering the amount of antibiotics used non-therapeutically in meat production may reduce the number of antibiotic-resistant organisms in the environment, so it seems we must try to lower use. Lowering the number of antibiotic-resistant organisms will have huge follow on effect for human health and may slow the march to our antibiotic-free future. Consumers are key as they drive demand, argues Dr. Hansen. Specific labels exist in the US for meat grown without extraneous use of antibiotics so consumers can be informed about the path their meat took from pasture to plate. Butchers and restaurants should also be aware of the origins of their meat, so ask them. Even Chicago’s public school system has begun purchasing and serving chicken raised without antibiotics to students in 473 schools.