Antibiotics in Farm Animals on the Rise

A new report shows domestic food animals are increasingly doped up.
Antibiotic sales for farm animals are on the rise, says a new report. (Joost J. Bakker/Creative Commons)
Nov 4, 2011
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

Need another reason to support your local farmer? Look to the recent report released by the Food and Drug Administration on antibiotic use in farm animals.

According to new FDA data, sales of antibiotics for domestic food animals increased by 6.7 percent from 2009 to 2010, bumping the dosage of drugs in the food system to 30.6 million pounds. Meanwhile, the increase in meat production was 1.3 percent.

The majority of the drugs given to pigs, poultry, and cattle are not used to treat illness but to increase animals' growth and compensate for unsanitary conditions on overcrowded farms. Farm animals account for approximately 74 percent of antibiotic use in the U.S. 

Lost your appetite yet?

Beyond being an unnatural growth enhancement for animals, widespread use of antibiotics in factory farming productions takes its toll on human health by making infections more expensive and difficult to treat. When human bacteria are continously exposed to small amounts of antibiotics, they develop immunity to them. In time, new, stronger strains of bacteria with antibiotic immunity form and pass their immunity to future generations. Treatments that once worked become ineffective.

Laura Rogers, project director for the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, blasted the FDA's news, saying it confirms what we already know. "...[I]ndustrial farms are using antibiotics on a massive scale that far exceeds what doctors are using to treat sick people," Rogers told Food Safety News. "The time for the Administration to protect our health is long overdue."

Image from Joost J. Bakker/Creative Commons via Flickr.
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