You may already be familiar with some of the strange things antibiotics can do to your body.
And one of the biggest concerns of antibiotic overexposure is something called antibiotic resistance, which occurs when an antibiotic can no longer effectively control or kill bacterial growth in the body.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least two million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and, as a result, at least 23,000 people die.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers antibiotic resistance to be one of the greatest threats to global health, food security and current development.
In general, death rates due to antibiotic resistance continue to increase throughout the world. These are some terrifying facts to say the least.
Meat producers have fed growth-promoting antibiotics in food animals for years.
Recently, scientists have expressed concern that, along with the general overuse of antibiotics in humans, this use of “sub-therapeutic” levels of antibiotics in food animals can carry serious health risks for people.
Banning the use of such drugs, however, would greatly reduce the efficiency of the industry, increasing the cost of meat.
Some in the industry believe that the scientific evidence linking the use of low-dose antibiotics to drug-resistant diseases in people is inconclusive and does not justify a ban on their use.
Ranchers and farmers have been feeding antibiotics to the animals we eat from since they discovered decades ago that small doses of antibiotics given daily would cause most animals to gain up to 3 percent more weight than they would.
In an industry where profits are measured in pennies per animal, such weight gain was revolutionary.
Although it is not yet clear exactly why feeding small ‘sub-therapeutic’ doses of antibiotics, such as tetracycline, causes them to gain weight, there is evidence that antibiotics kill the flora that would normally thrive in them. the intestines of animals.
This allows the animals to use their food more effectively.
The meat industry does not disclose its use of antibiotics, making it difficult to obtain accurate information on the amount of antibiotics administered to feed animals.
Stuart B. Levy, MD, who has studied the subject for years, estimates that there are 15-17 million pounds of antibiotics used sub-therapeutically in the United States each year.
Antibiotics are given to animals for therapeutic reasons, but their use is not as controversial because few argue that sick animals should not be treated.
The biggest controversy centers around taking antibiotics that are used to treat human diseases and administering them to food animals.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals may pose a risk to human health.
If a group of animals is treated with a certain antibiotic over time, the bacteria that live in those animals will become resistant to that drug.
According to microbiologist Dr. Glenn Morris, the problem for humans is that if a person ingests resistant bacteria through undercooked meat and becomes ill, they may not respond to antibiotic treatment.
Side effects of antibiotics on meat
A previous Chain Reaction II report focused on the use of antibiotics in fast food.
So why the focus on meat only for this report?
According to the Center for Food Safety:
“Although there is some progress in the chicken industry in response to consumer demand, many fast food restaurants have not made significant commitments to address the overuse of antibiotics in their beef supply chains.”
The Center also notes how in 2016, 43 percent of “medically important antibiotics” sold to the meat industry went to the beef sector, while 6 percent went to chicken.
Warnings about the overuse of antibiotics in animals raised for meat, eggs and milk are nothing new. (We’ve also heard about the dangers of antibiotic overuse in hospitals and at home for some time as well.)
But it is especially important to focus on how industrial agriculture abuses antibiotics. Many cows are given frequent antibiotics not only to prevent infection in substandard living conditions, but also to allow for faster growth on less feed.
Antibiotics are considered “obesogenic”, a substance that promotes weight gain. In the industrial farming system, it is a cheap way to fatten cattle faster, increasing profit margins.
Regardless of the reasons behind the use of antibiotics, we are faced with a serious problem: animals overexposed to antibiotics end up with infections that the drugs cannot fight.
And those hard-to-kill superbugs can end up on your plate. Another threat? Certain antibiotics can trigger life-threatening reactions in people.
A recent Consumer Reports investigation found chloramphenicol in meat samples. According to the report:
“This antibiotic, at any level of exposure, can trigger life-threatening aplastic anemia or the inability to make enough new blood cells in 1 in 10,000 people.”
About 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are fed from animals raised for food.
And most are given to animals in low, chronic doses to accelerate growth and prevent disease. This long-term exposure gives the bacteria time to adapt to survive, rendering the antibiotics useless.
Giving low-dose, long-term antibiotics to farm animals is the perfect breeding ground for creating dangerous, drug-resistant germs.
In fact, just this year, researchers at the University of Exeter found that using antibiotics for longer than necessary creates a tipping point where germs become resistant to their effects.
This new research suggests that reducing the duration of antibiotic treatment helps lower the risk of resistance.
And when it comes to factory farms, this is definitely not what is happening. In these types of factory farms, animals are usually given drugs even when they are not sick.
Epidemiologists have clearly linked the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals with infections detected in humans.
For example, scientists detected an infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in beef, turkey, chicken, and pork. MRSA is a bacteria that contributes to infections of the skin, connective tissue, and sometimes bones, heart, and blood vessels.
Since MRSA is resistant to many antibiotic drugs, it can sometimes continue to spread throughout the body as bacteria make their way through the bloodstream and into pockets where they can reproduce rapidly, leading to pneumonia, sepsis, and infections. from the bloodstream.
Exposure to another type of bacteria, E. coli., In animals is associated with sepsis as well as urinary tract infections in humans.
The use of antibiotics in beef is also having an extremely negative impact on the environment.
When antibiotics are given to farm animals, this leads to contamination of manure, soil, and water. When this contaminated manure and soil is used to grow plant-based foods, the chain of antibiotics continues.
For example, crops such as corn, potatoes, and lettuce have tested positive for the antibiotic sulfamethazine in plant tissue.
Quality and quantity of meat
According to a 2018 analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), more than 47,000 federal government laboratory tests of bacteria on meat from a supermarket found an increase in the already high number of bacteria-contaminated ground beef resistant to antibiotics.
Therefore, the concern is not only about the antibiotics in the beef that are used for fast food burgers, but also about the quality of the meat that we consume in general.
One of the best ways to avoid antibiotics in beef is to look for brands that are certified organic by the USDA.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, this means that the beef comes from animals’ raised under living conditions that are adapted to their natural behaviors (such as the ability to graze on pastures), fed fodder and forage 100% organic, and they are not given antibiotics or hormones. ”
Choosing grass-fed beef is another criterion that increases the quality of your meat, including its beneficial nutrients, but grass-fed cattle have also been shown to be better for the environment with a lower carbon footprint.
Even if you are following a high protein eating style, such as the ketogenic diet, don’t forget that there are other healthy vegetarian sources of protein such as:
In terms of the environment, these plant proteins are much less demanding.
As the EWG notes, “If everyone in America skipped meat and cheese for just one day a week and replaced it with a plant-based protein, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles or taking out 7.6 million cars. Of the road”.
In its recent report, the World Health Organization attributed the global rise in antibiotic resistance to a combination of factors including overuse in many parts of the world, particularly for minor infections ‘and’ misuse due to lack of access to adequate treatment.
According to Alexander S. Matthews, President and CEO of the Animal Health Institute (AHI):
“Eliminating antibiotics from animal feed and water would lead to increased animal diseases, reduced food security, and would gain little, if anything, in the effort to control resistance” .
“Principles of prudent use”.
Reducing or stopping the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in animal production could have serious economic effects on the meat and poultry industry.
According to a report published in May 2001 by the USDA Economic Research Service, discontinuing the use of antimicrobial drugs in swine production would initially decrease feed efficiency, increase feed costs, reduce production, and increase prices for pigs. consumers.
However, even within industry, there is a growing movement to reduce at least the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals raised for food.
Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Foster Farms, which together produce one-third of the chickens Americans eat, recently declared their intention to greatly reduce the amount of antibiotics given to healthy chickens.
There is still no way for consumers to know if one of these companies’ chickens has been treated with antibiotics, although some corporate consumers, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Popeye, refuse to buy chickens that have been treated with fluoroquinolones.
Increasing public pressure may make companies that grow food animals collectively decide that additional weight loading for food animals is not a worthwhile possibility.
- The use of antibiotics in beef (and other meats) contributes significantly to a serious health problem that we all face today around the world: antibiotic resistance.
- Meat producers and sellers of meat products (like the classic hamburger) need to start taking steps to supply us with meat that is ideally free of dangerous antibiotics.
- We also need to start pushing ourselves better and making a statement by choosing better quality meat in restaurants and grocery stores.
- Giving cows excessive amounts of antibiotics is not only detrimental to their health, but also contributes to serious and even fatal infections in humans, such as MRSA, sepsis, and pneumonia.
- The use of antibiotics in beef is terrible for the environment. Avoiding hamburgers and other beef products sold by companies that show zero concern for the quality of their meat is an important way to combat the terrifying use of antibiotics in beef.