As you may have noticed, the EnergyFirst program encourages the consumption of organic meat and dairy products. Our whey protein isolate products are sourced from grass-fed cows not treated with hormones or antibiotics.
One of the most important reasons is to minimize your exposure to antibiotic and hormone residues in meat and dairy products. For the most part, organic regulations prohibit the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. Also, producers of organic meat or dairy are required to provide organic feed to animals, that is food free of contamination from antibiotics or hormones.
You may be wondering why antibiotics are used in the first place. While it's true that some animals do get sick and can benefit from antibiotics, most antibiotics are not given for medical needs. Once scientists discovered that antibiotics can stimulate growth in farm animals, the meat industry "hit the jackpot". The administration of small "sub-therapeutic" doses made animals grow quicker with the same amount of food as before. Larger animals with less "sick days" (if you will) living on less food? This sounds great from an economic standpoint for producers of animal products.
MISUSE and OVERUSE
As mentioned, antibiotics are given to animals for therapeutic reasons. The misuse of antibiotics, however, is when they are given to animals who aren't sick. They are routinely given to all farm animals to compensate for unsanitary living conditions (crowded, dirty farms) and to accelerate growth.
Just how widespread is antibiotic use on livestock? The FDA reports that 80% of all antibiotics sold in the US are distributed for food animals, not for humans. In 2011 alone, 30 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use on farm animals. Only 7 million were distributed for humans.
What's the danger in this? These regular, low doses of antibiotics given to farm animals kill weak bacteria and leave behind ones that are resistant, hard to kill. Over time, these drug-resistant bacteria survive, multiply, and spread.
What happens next?
A 2011 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office outlines how the resistant bacteria that survives in these farm animals can lead to antibiotic resistance in the general population.
Resistant bacteria in farm animals can be transmitted:
- via animal waste to soil, water, and air.
- via farm workers and food processors in contact with the animals.
- via contaminated meat products at the grocery store.
- to other animals on the farm.
Contaminated soil and water further leads to resistant bacteria appearing in fish, fruits, and vegetables. The result? Resistant bacteria from food processors, meat products, fresh produce, and even fish are transmitted to the general population. The risk of developing dangerous antibiotic-resistant infections can develop as a result.
This can become a serious health threat for humans. For one thing, the antibiotics administered to animals are the same or similar to those used for humans. Also, if a human ingests resistant bacteria from improperly cooked meat and becomes ill, antibiotic treatment may be of no help.
Human health consequences include more serious and more frequent infections, treatment failures, prolonged illnesses, and greater likelihood of hospitalization.
What can you do?
The culprit of antibiotic resistance is not limited to animals treated with antibiotics. Overuse and misuse of antibiotics by humans in many parts of the world, especially for minor infections, is a major factor. Still, the intensive use of antibiotics in animal agriculture gives reason for concern.
How can you lower odds of getting exposed to resistant bacteria? Purchase meat, poultry, and dairy products from animals that were never given antibiotics.
In the meantime, as a society, we can hope that antibiotics will be used less for raising animals and solely for what truly makes them valuable - to treat sick people. While some countries have banned the use of sub-therapeutic doses of antibiotics, others still consider it legal and even consider it safe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published a Global Strategy for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance. In this report, WHO declared its intention to keep antibiotics working. How? By reducing the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in food animals in order to protect human health. Among their recommendations is the desire to rapidly phase out or terminate the use of antimicrobials used for growth promotion in animals.
Will this make our animal products more expensive? Not really. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reports that restricting antibiotics would raise prices by just 3-5 cents per pound. The rise in chicken prices would be negligible. We do not need antibiotics to make meat affordable.
J.Vet. Med.B Infect. Dis. Vet.Public Health, 51, 374‐379.
FDA. 2011 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals.
Silver Spring, MD:Center for Veterinary Medicine, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2011).
Public Health Rep. 2012 Jan-Feb; 127(1): 4–22.