antibiotics + the meat industry

I’ve been reading Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, a book that unearths certain practices and misconceptions about the food industry. I haven’t finished it yet so I won’t be talking about it today, but a topic came up in the media recently that was perfectly aligned with what I’ve been reading.

The topic? Antibiotics in the meat industry.

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photo: Wall Street Journal

Using antibiotics on animals raised for meat isn’t new. For years farmers have been known to put antibiotics in the cattle’s/chickens’/pigs’ feed in order to artificially pump up their growth.

The rate at which animals can grow while on antibiotics is startling. Some chickens grow so quickly that their legs haven’t strengthened quickly enough to keep pace, causing them to be virtually immobile. Kinda gross.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to regulate this entire practice, forcing farmers to only use antibiotics when medically necessary. Well, “medically necessary” can be a very loose term–critics are suggesting that farmers may still be able to slow-stream antibiotics in the animals’ food as a way to “prevent future disease”. Way to work the system, farmers!

The FDA’s proposed rule would also require supervision and approval from a licensed veterinarian. I foresee tons of corruption here–just pay off your vet and it’s antibiotics for everyone!

So I’m thinking this little FDA intervention won’t help on a grand scale. What really bugs me (pun intended) about the use of antibiotics in meat is that the high content of antibiotic in the animal can lead to bacteria development that is resistant to any drug out there…I think these are commonly considered “superbugs”. Yay for more disease!

Either way, with the FDA’s proposed rules or not, antibiotics are still going to find their way into our meat. Once I finish Omnivore’s Dilemma you best believe I’ll have a whole slew of things to rant about the food industry!

Does knowing that there are antibiotics in your meat make you a little hesitant to eat it? Anyone out there a vegetarian because of all this?

photo credit: Wall Street Journal