The meat and poultry business is America’s number one user of antibiotics, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Actually, antibiotics appear on our plates in salmon and other fish, eggs, milk and other dairy products, too.
“We use 80 percent of the antibiotics we produce in this country on animal production,” Rangan said.
Antibiotics are administered to livestock for three main purposes:
- to treat a sick animal for a specific, present disease.
- to prevent the occurrence of diseases that are increasingly likely to occur due to the crowded conditions common to much of modern agricultural production.
- to promote faster growth in livestock.
Most of these drugs are being fed to healthy animals. The biggest problem with this practice is that bacteria are becoming incresingly resistant to antibiotics, making it harder to treat diseases in people, according to Rangan.
One study tied human bladder infections to overuse of antibiotics in chickens.
It appears that awareness of this issue is building with the general public. When FDA issued new rules in April that allowed factory farms to continue overusing antibiotics, there was an outcry from angry consumers. In response, FDA solicited and recevied thousands of comments from the public on the new rules. There is even a FaceBook page dedicated to curbing the use of antibiotics in food.
For listings of stores, farmers markets, family farms and restaurants that strive to provide naturally produced foods, refer to the Eat Well Guide.