This article was originally published by OnEarth magazine.
Before I even stepped from my truck onto the gravel outside the New Fashion Pork hog confinement facility, Emily Erickson, the company’s animal well-being and quality assurance manager, handed me a pair of stretchy white plastic footies to put over my shoes. It was a blustery day in September, the sky threatening snow—the first hint of winter, when cold, dry air stabilizes viruses and biosecurity becomes a topmost concern. Read more
What do football fields and industrial farms have in common? In both places, a microscopic threat to human health is spreading. But on farms, a lack of veterinary involvement may be making the problem worse. Read more
Foster Farms has been in the news lately because the company was linked to a Salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people last year. Last week a plant was closed after USDA found cockroaches and sanitation problems. They’ve been quick to make promises about doing better, but so far we haven’t heard any explicit pledges to prevent the further spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Read more
So, FDA has finally come out with its much talked-up voluntary guidance (read, recommendations) for the pharmaceutical and livestock industries on appropriate antibiotic use and avoiding antibiotic resistance. It has been pending in draft form for over a year and a half and has been long-criticized as a hollow gesture to tackle antibiotic resistance. Despite FDA’s assurances, the reality is that this final guidance: 1) doesn’t do much, 2) pretends to do more, and 3) kicks the can significantly down the road. Here’s why: Read more
On April 29, 2008, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) released the findings of a two-and-a half-year examination of the food animal industry to the nation. Their conclusion: The current system of raising animals posed unacceptable risks to public health and the environment. Five years later, an in-depth analysis by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) determined that instead of getting better, the problem has actually gotten worse since the commission released its seminal report, Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. Read more
Today, together with Causes.Com, I’m launching a new petition to take on what government officials and medical experts are increasingly calling a growing threat to public health: The overuse of antibiotics on animal farms. The petition is expected to reach as many as a half million Internet viewers this week. Petition signers are asking Walmart’s CEO, Mike Duke, to demand that its meat suppliers only use medically necessary antibiotics when an animal is sick, rather than to prevent sickness because animals are crammed in conditions that breed infection. Read more
For decades, livestock producers have used low doses of antibiotics to expedite animal growth. The practice, dubbed sub-therapeutic antibiotic therapy (STAT), lowers feed costs while increasing meat production, and nearly 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are for this purpose. Because STAT can encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” it’s banned in many countries, but remains common in the U.S.-despite recent public pleas to stop it by two former FDA commissioners. Although STAT has been in use since the 1950s, how it works has long been a mystery. But evidence is mounting that it might be due to antibiotics killing microorganisms that populate animals’ guts. Read more
“I bring my lunch to school every day because the school food is pretty disgusting,” Nick Hilliard, a senior at Apopka High School in Florida, told high school reporter Rachel Armstrong.
“If you’re willing to spend some money, you can have a well-balanced meal,” said a senior from Portland, Oregon, in her school newspaper.
“A lot of the food is oily. It doesn’t look good,” said a sophomore at California’s Oakland Tech, as quoted in her high school paper. Read more
On April 8, the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center stepped into the debate about antibiotic use in animal agriculture. Under the guidance of physicians and foodservice staff alike, UCSF’s Academic Senate unanimously approved a resolution to phase out the procurement of meat raised with non-therapeutic antibiotics and urged all ten University of California campuses to do the same. This resolution is not just a symbolic decision – serving over 650,000 meals per year to patients, staff, and the community, and with a food budget of close to $7 million, UCSF and its food purchasing choices have the power to send a strong message to the market and to policymakers. Read more
Jack Jones (who asked that his real name not be used) takes care of a small organic pear orchard for a farmer south of the San Francisco Bay Area. This spring, as the trees have begun to blossom, he’s been spraying them with a small amount of the antibiotic tetracycline to prevent a disease called fire blight.
Last year, when the perfect storm of warm, wet air first brought the bacteria to the farm, he tried removing infected branches and getting rid of cover crops, which were providing nitrogen that fed the disease. But to no avail—the disease had established itself in the trunks.
“It just devastated the orchard. We lost 80 percent of our trees in one season,” he recalls. Read more