Disturbing Fact: More antibiotics are fed to food animals in North Carolina than are given to all Americans. Thanks to this kind of misuse, antibiotic-resistant diseases now kill more Americans than HIV/AIDS, says New York’s Rep. Louise M. Slaughter.
These MRSA-tainted farms often focus on efficiency and production of cheap food, not animal health, well-being, clean meat, or holistic farming practices.
The bacteria run deep. Heavy use of antibiotics and other industrial-feedlot farming methods leads to tougher meat. To counteract that, industry has turned to “mechanical tenderization,” a process that uses needles or blades to puncture the outside of the meat to make it more tender. The problem is, this drives any exterior bacteria deep into the meat, where they’re harder to kill.
More virulent infections emerge. Turkey was the source of the largest food recall in U.S. history, which occurred in 2011 when one person died and more than 100 were hospitalized after eating ground-turkey products contaminated with an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella.
Veterinary drugs turn up in store meat. A 2010 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found many dangerous substances, including pesticides, veterinary medicines, dioxin, and heavy metals, in the U.S. meat supply. USDA’s meat audit turned up things like the carcinogen arsenic, penicillin (a drug that can cause life-threatening allergic reactions in some people), ivermectin (an animal wormer than can cause neurological damage in humans), and flunixin (a veterinary drug that can cause kidney damage, stomach and colon ulcers, and blood in the stool of humans).
How to Protect Yourself:
• Organic, Certified Humane, and Animal Welfare Approved programs ban the routine use of low-dose antibiotics in livestock. (Organic completely bans antibiotic use, while the other two programs only allow antibiotics in acute cases when an animal may really be sick and need it. Chronic, low-dose antibiotic feeding is prohibited in all three of these systems.)
• Find farmers you trust. Search LocalHarvest.org to find a farmer in your area. Ask them how they raise their animals, including how they prevent animal sickness and how they treat it. Ask if they use antibiotics in the animals’ feed and water. Often, farmers who raise their livestock on pasture don’t need antibiotics. They just raise fewer animals and give them more room, feed them a more natural diet, and rotate the animals to fresh plots to reduce disease buildup.
• Eat less meat. Study after study shows you’ll live longer if you eat less meat. Soak and cook dried organic beans regularly for a healthy, cheap protein source you can rely on.
Collaborator: LEAH ZERBE
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