By Cooking Up a Story
Many of the issues that those in the food movement feel are wrong with our dominant food system can be found in the poultry egg industry at large. Whether it’s examining our food production through the lens of animal welfare concerns, environmental impacts, worker’s health, deceptive consumer marketing practices, weak government oversight—the egg industry could serve as the poster child of much that is wrong with our industrial agriculture system.
Right off the bat, two things should concern those of us that enjoy eating fresh chicken eggs. First, does it really require almost a 15-minute video to explain what we are actually buying when we purchase a dozen eggs at the supermarket?
And second, ask yourself this question. If we were permitted to visit any egg production farm in the country without notice and without any on-site viewing restrictions, would we likely purchase those eggs if we saw how the chickens lived and what they were fed?
Yesterday the World Health Organization issued a landmark 256 page assessment of the antibiotic resistant bacteria that now roam the globe. The upshot, according to Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security:
Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill
As the report notes, “…these drugs have been extensively misused in both humans and food-producing animals in ways that favor the selection and spread of resistant bacteria.”
We don’t know for sure, but this sort of antibiotic misuse may be an underlying cause of the antibiotic resistance we’re seeing in the Salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms — an outbreak that is still afflicting chicken eaters here in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly two-thirds of the Salmonella sampled from afflicted patients tested resistant to one or more antibiotics. CDC’s update on April 9 indicates that the outbreak is still going more than a year after its official start date in March 2013.
Foster Farms admits that it uses antibiotics, but has declined requests by NRDC and other public interest groups to disclose its antibiotic use or to commit to safe antibiotic stewardship practices.
Here’s a recent infographic summarizing the situation (yes, NRDC officially gives you permission to share, link or re-post as you like. Click on it for a larger version). Get more facts about the Foster Farms outbreak here.
Americans are under threat from antibiotic-resistant superbugs, making us vulnerable to common, once treatable infections (such as MRSA). A remarkable 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not by humans, but by the meat and poultry industries so factory farm animals can grow faster and survive the crowded and unsanitary conditions found in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
This is creating superbugs on the farm and humans are exposed in a number of ways, including when we handle or eat undercooked meat. Our life-saving drugs are becoming less effective when we really need them. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has refused to take meaningful action to restrict the use of unnecessary antibiotics in livestock production.
The “natural” label has nothing to do with how an animal was raised. The USDA requires only that no coloring or artificial ingredients are added to the final meat or poultry product and that it be “minimally processed” (although salt water can be added).
“Natural” meat or poultry products can definitely be given antibiotics in their feed or water while being raised—and can also be raised in confined spaces with thousands of other animals, given hormones and other drugs, fed animal by-products and subjected to many other unnatural practices.
Consumers should beware of several labels that are unapproved by the USDA, such as “antibiotic-free” and “no antibiotic residues”, that could mislead them to think a product was raised without any antibiotics, when in fact that may not be the case. –Consumer’s Union
If you choose to eat meat, please be a conscientious consumer. The best sources of clean, healthy animal products are generally those that are organic, grass-fed, often sold at farmers’ markets or CSA-style meat-shares (visit Eatwild, LocalHarvest or Real Time Farms to find resources in your area).
October 16th, 2011 (World Food Day) is expected to be the largest nationwide day of action against genetic engineering in US history!
“As a citizen concerned about the health, environmental, ethical, and socio-economic hazards of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and industrial-scale factory farms or CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), I feel strongly that consumers have an inalienable right to know whether the food we are purchasing likely contains GM ingredients or comes from animals confined in CAFOs.” —Millions Against Monsanto Petition