Side of antibiotics with your steak, Sir?

December 14, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized 

Last week the FDA released its first report on antibiotic use in livestock in the US.  It was a short report, with almost no press.  But it said that in 2009, livestock producers used 29 million pounds of antibiotics on their animals.  Some, yes, are used to treat sick animals.

But antibiotics are also used to treat perfectly healthy animals that might get sick, or that live in unsanitary conditions as a precautionary measure.

Why is this an issue?

Many strains of e.coli exist in parts of livestock we wouldn’t normally eat anyway, like the intestines.  (Yes you can eat them, but you don’t often see them for sale at your local supermarket)  They spend their lives with other bacteria, playing cards and doing whatever it is bacteria do when they’re not infecting people.  They are harmless and would continue to be that way if the animals were properly cared for.  But when antibiotics are used merely as a precautionary measure, drug resistant strains begin to develop, and have been developing for years now.

Which means you could get sicker, and in a manner that we are not yet able to cure with existing medicine.  Hmm.  Frightening.

In 2009 the FDA released a report detailing safe use of antibiotics in livestock.  Included were these choice phrases:

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly than antimicrobial susceptible bacteria and thus increases the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria. Because antimicrobial drug use contributes to the emergence of drug resistant organisms, these important drugs must be used judiciously in both animal and human medicine to slow the development of resistance. Using these drugs judiciously means that unnecessary or inappropriate use should be avoided….

In regard to the use of antimicrobial drugs in animals, concerns have been raised by the public and components of the scientific and public health communities that a significant contributing factor to antimicrobial resistance is the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in foodproducing animals for production or growth-enhancing purposes.

So not only can you get fatter, you can now also get sicker.

Here’s a very clear, slightly revolting example of why preventative antibiotic use should be avoided.

One of the most harmful strains of e.coli is O157:H7.  This strain exists in the intestine of most cows, and doesn’t usually cause an issue with them.  In order to infect a human, it has to exit the intestinal tract and be ingested by a person.  If that’s not clear enough – you got sick because you ate fecal matter!

Cows that require preventative antibiotics spend their lives in confinement, close to other cows and usually without proper sanitation for their byproducts.  They are quite literally covered in manure.  When they go to get butchered, the knives, saws, what have you cut through whatever layer of feces is on the cow’s hide to butcher the animal.  This bacteria is then transferred to the meat, which you then ingest and get sick.  Really though, we’re not supposed to be eating manure so you shouldn’t be too surprised by the connection there.

So, in order to eat less crap, consider shopping at your local butcher, your local farmer’s market, at Whole Foods, or at a place like La Cense Beef, which is a great online supplier of grass fed products.

Less poop.  More meat.  Happy eating!



One Response to “Side of antibiotics with your steak, Sir?”

  1. agallitano on December 16th, 2010 5:31 pm

    This is a great post. I think it’s important that people who eat meat educate themselves on WHAT they are eating. Not only is the meat industry using antibiotics, they are also using a LOT of growth hormones in their livestock.