Thursday, August 11, 2011

Study: Poultry Farms that Go Organic Have Fewer Drug-Resistant Bacteria

Last week our friends at Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey that may be contaminated with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. There's a good chance the pathogens are resistant to our normal course of antibiotic treatment because of the micro dosages of antibiotics that are administered to our farm animals (usually via their feed).

(I've discussed this issue before, as has Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times.)

This week a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives shows how much damage this practice is causing.

From the University of Maryland's School of Public Health:

"Poultry farms that have adopted organic practices and ceased using antibiotics have significantly lower levels of drug-resistant enterococci bacteria that can potentially spread to humans, according to a groundbreaking new study led by a researcher in the University of Maryland's School of Public Health.

"The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives (online August 10, 2011), is the first to demonstrate lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria on newly organic farms in the United States and suggests that removing antibiotic use from large-scale U.S. poultry farms can result in immediate and significant reductions in antibiotic resistance for some bacteria."
I'm very, very confident that Big Food will counter with a grand public relations barrage pontificating about the need for antibiotics, but none us should buy it (or the meat sold by Big Food).

Remember, antibiotics aren't allowed to be given to healthy animals in the European Union and South Korea; food supplies in those countries haven't collapsed.

At what point will this nonsense stop in the United States? I don't mean to be cruel, but who do we need to die for action to be taken? A superstar athlete? A politician's relative? The CEO of Cargill?


Anonymous said...

Our family long ago gave up eating meat that has been treated with antibiotics. We buy beef, pork, and lamb from a local organic farmer (and eggs when we can, but they sell out quickly). Chicken is actually a little harder as the organic free-range variety is frequently tough, due I guess to not having been treated with the injected fluids that are commonly used elsewhere. Whole Foods does sell some chicken (they say are antibiotic free) that is tender, so that is the only meat I buy from a big name store. We also only choose restaurants that serve local, natural foods (a bit expensive, that). We find that we have cut down the amount of meat we eat, but we enjoy it much more and feel we are supporting the right path.

Chef Rob said...