Hi. Dr. Connie here.
I came across a recent New York Times article all about hormone and antibiotic use in animals.
It’s common knowledge that the use of antibiotics can help animals grow fatter faster. Time and weight translates to money.
For many years, ranchers used antibiotics not only for treating infections, but also promoting growth so that animals can be ready for the slaughterhouse faster.
It takes 27 months to get the meats to the market without antibiotics vs only 13 months for those cows pumped full of antibiotics.
Antibiotics in Meat Breeds Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
In 2017, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) enacted rules banning the use of human antibiotics purely for growth in animals. The FDA enacted the restrictions out of growing concern for breeding antibiotic resistant bacteria from antibacterial overuse.
Such resistant bacterial strains can be transferred to humans by contact with animals or raw meat and possibly through the consumption of undercooked meat.
We know that antibiotics alter our microbiota composition resulting in increased disease. (1)
According to the CDC, more than 400,000 US residents become ill with infections caused by antibiotic resistant food-borne bacteria each year, with about one in five resistant infections caused by germs from food and animals. (2)
This is a great public health concern because such antibiotic resistant animals are potentially harmful to humans.
Food chains easily transmit such pathogens, as well as animal wastes in the environment.
Despite the ban, there’s speculation that the ranchers continue to use antibiotics in their animals to beef them up for more profit.
Experts agree that the FDA rules have a giant “loophole” that allows farmers to continue to use antibiotics to prevent disease, even in the absence of symptoms.
You can use the antibiotics in the feed and water as long as the rancher can justify that it’s for disease prevention rather than growth promotion, which is very easy to do.
What’s worse is that the veterinarians working for certain feedlots seem more than happy to prescribe antibiotics that continue to fatten the livestock.
Additionally, because the FDA does not collect data on the reason for the use of the drugs, it’s hard to document and prove its abuse.
We know that there’s growing evidence that proves that the antibiotics we take can cause our gut microbiome to become unbalanced. We need such good happy bacteria to allow for proper food digestion.
Studies link the rise of obesity, diabetes in children, asthma, and allergies to this microbiome disruption. Some research indicates a link to autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The truth is that significant research points to the importance of our microbiome in our overall health. The destruction of such healthy bacteria in our gut causes an epidemic of chronic and drug resistant diseases.
So what can you do? Understanding your meat sources is the first step.
Understanding Beef Rankings
100% Grass Fed
The highest quality of organic meat available which meet the following criteria. Animals are
- Fed only grass, post-weaning, with supplemental food only as needed (can include hay, crop residue not containing grain, and other roughage sources).
- Never confined to feedlots and are able to roam freely on pasture.
- Never receive antibiotics or growth hormones.
- Originate from American farms.
Cattle have the ability to graze for food, but are also provided with supplemental alternatives.
They also may be fed grain the last 2-3 months of life before slaughter.
Ranchers raise cattle with strict regulations and annual verification of standards set forth by USDA officials including:
- Born and raised on a certified organic pasture.
- Not confined to a feedlot but must have unrestricted access to naturally graze outdoors.
- Sanitary conditions must be maintained.
- Cattle cannot be overcrowded.
- All synthetic contaminant exposure must be avoided, including hormones, antibiotics, GMOs and artificial fertilizers and pesticides.
***Disadvantages: May be fed corn and/or grain, although this food source must be organic.
Standards for this label include minimally processed meat that meet the following criteria:
- No artificial ingredients, such as preservatives, coloring, or flavoring
- Cannot contain salt or additives
- Can include meat raised in factory feedlots. No verification to know whether meat contains antibiotics or hormones (food source for animals can be genetically modified (GMO)).
As a consumer, you must make informed choices.
While it’s very difficult to stay 100% grass fed, I highly recommend at least the organic.
Not only do the conventionally raised animals contain lower amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, they can pose a threat to your microbiome, leading to a milieu of potential diseases.
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I’ll see you next time.