The Real Reason Farm Animals Consume Antibiotics–And What The FDA Is Trying To Do About It

Good news: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that they are calling on our nation’s pork, beef, and poultry farmers to reduce the use of antibiotics in these animals. Bad news: Some watchdog groups say this recommendation doesn’t go far enough. And worse yet: The real reason these animals are fed antibiotics is not what most people think.

It’s probably safe to assume that most of us believe antibiotics are included in the feed for farm animals to protect us from bacteria-laden illnesses. But, hold on. A major reason animals routinely get these drugs is because they make them grow faster. Not only that, but animals in this country actually consume far more antibiotics than people do. All of that is just a health disaster waiting to happen.

Why? Because this increases the chances that bacteria in animals will become resistant to drugs—and those drug-resistant bacteria can then infect us. And the FDA agrees. For years, they have been saying this practice is both unnecessary and dangerous. We are consuming tons of unnecessary antibiotics just so these farmers can produce bigger cows, pigs and chickens and make more money.

To help remedy this, the FDA is not trying to ban the use of these drugs though. Rather, they are collaborating with drug companies, veterinarians and livestock producers to make reduced antibiotic use voluntary because they feel this will be a more effective approach than attempting to ban more than a hundred separate drugs. Not only that, but they say banning them altogether would be an expensive and time-consuming undertaking that could take “decades of effort, and millions and millions of dollars of resources.”

There’s that economy over health issue again. Let’s not try to really make our food healthier for people because that would require too much effort.

As Avinash Kar, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, this action is a “make-believe” solution:

(The meat) industry is not required to do anything. This is an ineffective response to the real and sobering threat of rising antibiotic resistance, which threatens human health.

So while it’s good that the FDA is suggesting reduced use of antibiotic that are used strictly to promote growth, this brings up two important questions: Will the farmers comply? And, aren’t the drugs that will continue to be used to prevent disease a matter of interpretation?

In other words, will anything really change when it comes to what’s in our meat?



Share This Post:
    • g

      humans fail

    • dc

      like any of these folks are going to do anything voluntarily… eat local and organic. it’s the only way to exert market forces on the industry.

    • MBW

      “Not only that, but animals in this country actually consume far more antibiotics than people do.”

      They also weight FAR MORE than people do.

    • ElgeeC

      Aren’t they also necessary to fight infections caused by forcing corn on grass-eating animals?

      • Indiana cattle farmer

        No, cattle can get ill from eating too much corn due the starch content. If you remove the starch you can feed more corn products. You then have a higher protein than shell corn which is a good thing to a point. Now if you would include the whole corn plant, which is a grass by the way, with shell corn preferably cracked and some with the starch removed like they do when making ethanol and all you are missing are some minerals to balance things out.

        Cattle are not the problem. Being a larger animal, when a cow needs medical treatment it requires greater quantities to be effective. Maintaining animal health is easier than treating an animal that might be half dead or worse when treatments start.

    • Indiana cattle farmer

      Take away tetracycline from US farmers and you take away US food safety.