What’s the beef with antibiotics?

By: Paige McFarland, Intern

I recently read an article in Redbook magazine called “Antibiotics are not Candy”. In this article it discusses the risks of antibiotics developing superbugs. This article defines a superbug as a medicine resistant disease. The most well-known superbug is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA. It also discussed how these “bugs” could potentially become uncontrollable if the dilemma is not addressed.

As a farm girl myself, I experienced the trials and tribulations that went with raising cattle. I am frustrated with the misinformation I read the Redbook article regarding antibiotics in animals.

Medicines are used in animals just as they are used in humans- to treat and prevent illness effectively and to keep or maintain good health. Cattle are often given an antibiotic when they are sick, just like humans. These antibiotics are not the same as the antibiotic given to humans. They are utilized to create healthy animals so they can produce nutritious meat.

Farmers and ranchers monitor their livestock closely to know when, and if, these medicines are needed. If antibiotics are not needed they will not spend the money to administer the medicine. It doesn’t make good business sense to spend money on resources that aren’t needed.

Precautions are taken by the producers because they are fully aware of the potential harm antibiotics can cause. This is where groups such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) come in to save the day. Meat cannot be released into the food supply with any antibiotics above the strict safety limits set by the FDA. They undergo rigorous testing before seeking FDA approval to keep humans healthy.

TV shows, magazine articles and other sources often lead consumers astray with faulty accusations of animal agriculture. It is important to research the facts, and if you have questions, farmers are happy to speak with you. Groups like the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and CommonGround are just two of the grassroots programs that Kansas Corn are involved with.

Image from Redbook

The article showed a graphic that depicted animals on farms being fed low doses of antibiotics in their feed and water. They claimed the use of these antibiotics correlates directly with antibiotic-resistant bacteria that develops in animals and is then transferred to humans, making them sick. Contrary to popular belief, animals are not injected with antibiotics and directly put into our food supply to cause illness.

As I stated before, I grew up around cattle on my family farm. We have used antibiotics strictly for sicknesses in our cattle. Between the times the vet prescribes the antibiotic and the time it is injected, it is recorded. When we record an injection such as this one it is very important to have the type of antibiotic, date, time, and reason for the injection.

The antibiotics are subject to a thorough review process by the FDA before they are approved for use in food production. Antibiotic use in animal agriculture is not the reason for antibiotic resistance in humans. There are three key reasons for this:

1) It is unlikely that the resistant bacteria would survive the animal processing phase
2) It is unlikely that the bacteria would survive if the meat is cooked properly

3) The antibiotics used in animals are different from those used in human healthcare

A more likely reason for the uprising of the resistant bacteria is the over-use of antibiotics in human healthcare.

Animal agriculture is under a microscope now more than ever. There are activist groups out there looking to completely abolish animal agriculture, which is why I chose to write about this specific Redbook article. I could have read it and looked the other way, but I know how important it is to share my story. It is important to continue advocating and I encourage you to do the same.

More great articles:

Livestock Antibiotics: Super Bugs?

Antibiotic Superbugs: Why Farmers Aren’t To Blame


2 responses to this post.

  1. Great article with great information and visuals! Keep up the good work.


  2. Reblogged this on New To The Farm and commented:
    This is a great post on a hot topic – antibiotic use in animals and its effects on human health.


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