The Deadly Addiction to Cheap Meat: Antibiotics and feed lots are putting consumers in harm’s way | Local News | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
The Source Weekly’s reporting is made possible by the power of your support. Be a part of it!
Pin It

The Deadly Addiction to Cheap Meat: Antibiotics and feed lots are putting consumers in harm’s way 

America's cheap meat habit is costing more than we bargained for.

America's cheap meat habit is costing more than we bargained for. The factory farming of cows, pigs, poultry and fish sucks up 29 million pounds—80 percent—of antibiotics sold in the United States.

Many illness-causing bacteria are now resistant to most or all of the antibiotics that once killed them. While the overuse of antibiotics on humans has contributed to this public health crisis, the most egregious factor in creating antibiotic resistance is the routine, widespread, greed-driven dosing of livestock. About a quarter of U.S. meat and poultry samples contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The FDA, after more than three decades of dithering, has finally acknowledged a 'mounting public health problem of global significance.' But, when even industry acknowledges a serious problem, an April FDA report containing 'non-binding recommendations' politely asks the food industry to use antibiotics 'judiciously'—and gives industry three years to figure out how to circumvent the reforms.

In 1946, producers discovered that adding antibiotics to feed increased animal growth—and industry profits. This subtherapeutic dosing also allowed livestock to survive filthy, overcrowded conditions that would otherwise generate high and unprofitable rates of disease and death.

Antibiotics work by targeting specific bacteria, but they can leave the field open for resistant strains. CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are nearly ideal for generating resistant bacteria, and then spreading them through workers, flies, soil, air, water and, of course, food. Strains of strep; MRSA; tuberculosis; malaria; pneumonia; gonorrhea; various food poisons, including salmonella; along with other dangerous pathogens are increasingly impervious to common, inexpensive antibiotics.

New bacterial strains directly sourced to CAFOs are endemic in hospitals. An estimated 2 million Americans become sick, and 99,000 die annually, from hospital-acquired infections, 'the majority of which result from such resistant strains,' the New York Times reported. Treating resistant diseases costs $16-26 billion in annual medical expenses and $35 billion in lost work time, Tufts University researchers estimated.

The alphabet slurry of government agencies responsible for remediating this problem—FDA, USDA, CDC and others—has failed. Leaving loopholes wide enough for a cattle drive, and enforcement mechanisms as toothless as a hen, the new FDA report calls for animal antibiotic labeling to drop weight gain from its recommended uses. (Given how frequently human drugs are used off-label—i.e., for other than approved purposes—the change is beyond silly.) The report also calls for veterinary 'involvement' in determining 'judicious use,' including preventively treating animals that might become sick from 'production practices and herd health history.' Without fundamental changes to how CAFOs raise their 'product,' it is hard to imagine circumstances that would not call for preventative antibiotics.

The FDA's weak-kneed step in the industry-regulator dance perpetrates one of the oldest tricks in the book.

The Book: Corporate greed creates or exacerbates a threat to public health or welfare. Government avoids biting the corporate hand that feeds elected officials and the budget-starved or corrupted bureaucrats they hire.

The Trick: Deny there is a problem; reject causal links; foot drag on action; promise technological fixes; fail to demand or gather data and statistics, thereby ensuring that costs and solutions remain speculative; appoint committees to look into the matter; write reports; and finally, announce voluntary guidelines and/or inadequate regulations that impose few if any penalties.

“Antibiotic-resistant diseases now kill more Americans than AIDS,” Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said in an April 11 statement, 'and this issue needs to be treated with the seriousness it deserves.'

The FDA has failed to do that, but we can refuse to buy factory meat. Sure, you may have to pay more or eat less meat, but think of the price as a donation to ethical farmers who treat animals decently, and protect public health. Talk about a bargain.

This article originally appeared In These Times. It is reprinted here with permission.


About The Author

Pin It


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • My Marvelous Mentors

    My Marvelous Mentors

    Jim Anderson pens a farewell to readers
    • Aug 26, 2020
  • Make Masks Cool

    Make Masks Cool

    Bend nurses dole out PPE for fellow workers, after an angel donation falls in their laps
    • Mar 31, 2020
Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia

Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia

Wed., Oct. 27, 9:30-11 a.m.
Submitting an event is free and easy.

Newsletter Signup

Get Central Oregon daily news
directly in your inbox

Get Social

Latest in Local News

More by Source Weekly

Want to advertise with us?

For info on print and digital advertising, >> Click Here

© 2021 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA AVE, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation