Blog | March 17, 2009

Factory Farms, the Over-Use of Antibiotics, and Our Health

JenIn an op-ed from The New York Times yesterday, Nicholas Kristof took a close look at the use of antibiotics in factory farms. We know that factory farms are detrimental to the environment, our communities, and our health in terms of the pollution they generate that contaminates our air and water. But there’s something less obvious to the eye (and nose) going on as well.

Kristof found that 70% of all antibiotics used in the US are used to treat healthy livestock. Why give a healthy animal antibiotics? So that when they’re exposed to the horrible conditions of a factory farm, they will have a better chance of surviving until slaughter. This non-therapeutic overuse of antibiotics is one reason we’re seeing more and more antibiotic-restistant pathogens that threaten our health. In fact, MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, kills 18,000 people annually; and a new strain of MRSA can now be found in an estimated 25% to 39% of US hogs.

The practice of giving antibiotics to the animals who are destined for our plate compromises our health for the sake of our industrial food system–for the sake of efficiency, corporate greed and cheap meat. Just another reason to choose food from family farms!

Kristof mentions that there may be some upcoming legislative action to curb the overuse of antibiotics in our food system. As things progress, we’ll keep you informed so that you can act to help stop this dangerous practice. In the meantime, choose antibiotic-free meat!

To learn more about Farm Aid’s work against factory farming and issues like antibiotics, click here.

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