Can We Get Antibiotics Out of the Meat Industry?

I have a distinct memory from a few years back, when anti-bacterial soap and the like first became popularized, involving the Utopian promise of wiping out all bacteria (good and bad) from hands, feet, countertops, etc. While this promise of a cleaner and more sanitary world had its appeal, I (along with a few other wary skeptics) wondered if the eradication of all bacteria was such a good idea; that maybe this pathogen-free promise was going to bring along unforeseen problems. Well, we have yet to see the result of our anti-bacterial boon, but in the fight against disease and pathogens with the use of antibiotics, we humans have seen spotted trouble on the horizon Ė especially in relation to factory farm-raised livestock.

As a brief primer to the whole issue of livestock (or animals as some of us tend to overlook) and antibiotics; industrial farms throughout the United States have been mixing antibiotics into livestock feed since 1946, when studies showed that the drugs cause animals to grow faster and put on weight more efficiently, increasing meat producers’ profits. The primary reason that animals are fed antibiotics is because they are fed a low cost, high calorie corn based diet. This is also the reason the livestock tend to gain weight so quickly (as much as 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States is fed to healthy farm animals). Add to this the close confinement these animals are kept in, as well as the stress and lack of sanitation that many of these animals contend with, it is no wonder that they become prone to infection and in desperate need of antibiotic treatment in order to stay alive for as long as necessary.

But the liberal use of antibiotics present more complex and knotty challenges than just ethical ones. According to a New York Times report, dispensing antibiotics to healthy animals is routine on the large, concentrated farms that now dominate American agriculture. But the practice is increasingly condemned by medical experts who say it contributes to a growing scourge of modern medicine: the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including dangerous E. coli strains that account for millions of bladder infections each year, as well as resistant types of salmonella and other microbes. It has been estimated that at least 18,000 Americans die every year from such drug-resistant infections, many of which are attributed to liberal antibiotic use.

Now, contributing to what may be a banner year for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the FDA intends to put its proverbial food down with new tighter guidelines that would effectively end farm use of these antibiotic drugs simply to promote faster animal growth. In addition, the FDA is calling for tighter oversight by veterinarians in an effort to reduce what it calls a clear risk to human health. All of this FDA movement comes at a time when vocal criticism of factory farms and animal confinement has reached a fever pitch, and will undoubtedly be a welcome relief to the long established status quo. However, not everyone is looking forward to these tighter regulations, namely livestock producers who don’t see the direct connection between factory farms, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and outbreaks of human illness. In addition, many in the factory farm business argue that more stringent guidelines on antibiotic use would lead to more animal fatalities and ultimately a more costly end product. However, the EU barred most nontreatment uses of antibiotics back in 2006 and farmers there have adapted without major costs. And it has been proven over the years, in many different locals with sustainable farms, that animals raised in a clean, natural environment that is not a breeding ground for bacteria actually do better than their antibiotic-treated counterparts.

It is too early to see how all of this shakes out, but in a year where progressive legislation has been authored to reform egg farms, and a general growing awareness of the shortfalls of the factory farm model, it feels like a move in the right direction, especially after the FDA’s relative inaction over the past decade. I would imagine that many of you have strong feelings about the current status of factory farms and their liberal use of antibiotics. I don’t even feel I need ask pointed questions, as many of you will happily sound off without provocation below. But please, I invite everyone to share your take on the current state of being and what is needed for a happier, healthier, and maybe more ethical food system.

To help limit the use of antibiotics in food animals, sign this petition.


Dale Overall

It is certainly a preferable practice to avoid loading our food supply with unnatural things be it antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, GMO seeds...60 per cent of the world's soy supply is genetically modified, many veggies are sprayed in toxins.

Some say not to eat meat, highly unlikely of this taking place. We all choose our lifestyle and no one "side" has the monopoly on truth, virtue or compassion.

Organic is easier on our health be it omnivore or other. In the modern world most use appliances, plastics, drive cars and eat veggies transported by trucks that hit wildlife on the way to the market. Few lives are untainted in some way by how the modern world affects animals.

Large offices in high rises employing thousands have glass windows that kill off thousands of birds worldwide, many veggies are uneaten and tossed into landfills adding to greenhouse gases. Unless we live in a cave and collect nuts, berries and drink from natural spring water, our modern life affects animals and birds. Drive a car, the toxins add to the pollution breathed in by wildlife, or you will see dead squirrels, cats, dogs, deer--park it and walk since if eating animals means death then so does living our modern life, especially driving vehicles.

Until Mother Nature redesigns life so we survive by eating inorganic non living entities such as rock pate we all feed on formerly living matter. Who is to say whether the plant that grows better by listening to music and being talked to ha

Dale Overall

Long winded comment continued from previously, would love it if there was a twitter like word counter!

Who is to say whether the plant that grows better by listening to music and being talked to has less right to live and spread its seeds unchained by human consumption? Who is to say that mosquitoes have no right to be parasites and that their life cycle is less meaningful than a free range hen?

Some say plants are not sentient beings but who are humans to decide that a jellyfish is less than a porcupine or a domesticated animal? Should the polar bear not exist because Nature made it a carnivore? Humans are able to eat meat as well, was Nature wrong in making us this way? We would have died off if it were unnatural.

Everyone is free to eat what they wish to, a balanced diet is far more healthier, organic is preferred but in the end we have to follow our own paths instead of insulting each other, telling others to Go veg! Go vegan! (Does anyone ever say Go Steak?) citing websites in hopes of shocking and converting the others to one's way of thinking.

Unless we plan on living a totally organic life leaving modern homes and other things using materials that affect the planet such as water diversion, factories, industry we all have some impact on animals. If one chooses not to consume them, follow your journey without the constant judgement of being better than others unless one does give up all aspects of modern life and live in a remote and isolated area wher

Dale Overall

Final end of comment which begins two comments ago below!

If one chooses not to consume them, follow your journey without the constant judgement of being better than others unless one does give up all aspects of modern life and live in a remote and isolated area where ones impact cannot be felt.

Marie W.
Marie W5 years ago

Get corporations out.

David Nuttle
Past Member 5 years ago

If you can do so, get to know a local farmer/ rancher producing organic/ free-range livestock in a humane manner without use of hormones or antibiotics. This is the only way to really know the kind of meat you are buying/ consuming, unless you hunt wildlife to put meat on the table.

Kathleen Kaye
Kathleen Kaye5 years ago

seriously considering going back to being vegetarian had convert back to meat cause of money issuses but hearing all this stuff with the food industry don't wanna eat ever again.

Ryder W.
Ryder W6 years ago

yeah, really. it's more important to take the animals out of the meat industry.
people that eat meat are damaging their health with increased risks of obesity, diabetes, cancer, health failure, and all types of diseases -- antibiotics or not. they get pleasure from another creature's suffering.
the animals are the only innocent, vulnerable party in this situation.

Lena Rehberger
Lena Rehberger6 years ago

We should also get animals out of the food business!

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Kelsey C.
Kelsey S6 years ago