Look, I’ve watched ER. I know that rampant overuse of antibiotics has given rise to virulent “superbugs” that don’t respond to traditional treatment. I understand my pediatrician is not going to prescribe antibiotics for my kids unless absolutely necessary. I recognize this is an important step in preventing ever more antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria from developing.
Which is why I was so extremely irritated to learn from the New York Times that 70 percent of American antibiotics are given to healthy livestock, contributing to the rise of these resistant strains in our food supply.
“Five out of 90 samples of retail pork in Louisiana tested positive for MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant staph infection — according to a peer-reviewed study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology last year….Research by Peter Davies of the University of Minnesota suggests that 25 percent to 39 percent of American hogs carry MRSA.”
Now, no one has proven that pork can pass MRSA infections through their meat (although that certainly doesn’t make it more palatable) but that’s really not the point. What angers me here is the willingness of big business to endanger the health of the general public to fatten their pigs- and their bottom line.
By feeding healthy livestock antibiotics, factory farms are attempting to head off outbreaks of disease- disease that would spread quickly amongst a population that is overcrowded, cramped, stressed, and confined. These antibiotics also boost how quickly and how large the animals grow.
The end result? Cheap pork for the American public. Cheap, antibiotic-laced, possibly MRSA-infected meat. Mmm, yummy.
Meat is not cheap. Meat has an environmental cost, a moral cost, and now a demonstrated health cost.
By purchasing “cheap” meat, the American public is conceding that it is okay to contribute to the growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs; to imperil the health of the general public. That it’s fine to quietly administer our kids antibiotics in their food, and we don’t mind if there’s antibiotics in our water either, due to factory farm runoff.
That it’s acceptable to pen animals in reprehensible living conditions, just to satisfy the American need to eat pork chops and save a buck while doing it.
I think I’m going to do it: I’m going vegetarian (again). The meat I prepare for my family will come from small, local farms that treat their animals like animals, not like commodities. I vote with my dollar and I’m willing to pay a little more for a little piece of mind.
After all, the alternative is cheap factory farmed meat that promotes antibiotic-resistance and threatens public health. Personally, I find that to be too high a price to pay.
Photo Credit jere-me under Creative Commons