This bit of statistics came as a shock. Though aware of the antibiotics- livestock connection, and the antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains to a certain extent, this one rudely came as the last nail in the coffin!
Now, here is the irony of things. Over here, in the US, there is an overriding perception that rules are abided by. Especially when it comes to the USFDA. That is, if something is FDA certified, it must be good enough for healthy consumption. That being the case, what perplexes is the very fact that we haven't come across any meat, milk or eggs that are not certified by the USFDA. The note which says that the meat, milk or eggs are not treated with antibiotics or hormones adds to the credibility factor. So, where does this 80% of antibiotics disappear?
Organic certified consumables come at a premium. They are also USFDA certified. What then is the big difference between the no-antibiotic, no-hormone treated livestock and the organic ones? Just that they are fed only organically grown feed ? Can all that difference in price be attributed to just the organic-rearing cost?
That reminds me of an article that I read recently about the FDA admitting to the presence of arsenic in FDA approved Chicken. Arsenic is poison and yes, arsenic poisoning dates back to the middle ages. The iconic Napoleon Bonaparte was an arsenic victim, but, not from the Chicken that he ate, rather from a wall paper painting!
As of July 2011, FDA has admitted to the arsenic in Chicken, but (as expected) adds that its 'safe for consumption'. And what stance did the National Chicken Council take? Don't dismiss this for a joke; this is what they seriously said. 'the ingredient(that contains arsenic) has been used to maintain good health in chickens for many years, and that it is used in "many, but not all" flocks', adding "Chicken is safe to eat."
Reading into this story a bit deep, growth-promoting ingredient called Roxarsone can contain arsenic. And who manufactures this ingredient? Pfizer. This has been administered to Chicken since 1940. Yes, USFDA approved Chicken has growth-promoting chemicals added and, it contains arsenic.
Now, the interesting part is that though this Chicken is safe for consumption, Pfizer has agreed to pull feed containing Roxarsone off U.S. shelves. If its safe for consumption, why recall? And why only US shelves? In a matter of a few weeks, in all likelihood, (keeping their sense of ethics in mind), the recalled products will find newer markets.
Whenever I raise an alarm over consumption of meat, I find meat lovers up in arms against me! (including un-avoidable, close friends and family members.) But I also know of a close relative who said goodbye to Chicken after watching a Chicken-Farm video. In spite of being a meat connoisseur himself, I wondered what prompted him to take the abstaining plunge. But I come to understand that in Florida, its now illegal to film the modus operandi of a Factory Farm! How smart!
Unsanitary conditions of Factory Farms on one side. Tons of antibiotics pumped in to make up for it. And then, the drug-resistant bacteria strains. Hormones injected to livestock and early secondary sexual behaviour in young kids being the moot point in PTA meetings and socially responsible doctor forums. Meat consumption, (unless raised organically and in normal conditions) is not good for our bodies. Period.
Factory farms pose bigger risks for the environment. Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Carbon Dioxide are potent GHGases and are the undesirable by products of livestock digestion. Methane in fact is many times dangerous than CO2. In the U.S., cattle emit about 5.5 million metric tons of methane per year into the atmosphere, accounting for 20% of U.S. methane emissions. What surprises me is the big talk US gives on reducing GHG emissions and how they go around the world with their policing tactics!
Livestock raising and the deadly factory farms are digging the Earth's grave. Period.
watch HBO's 'Death on a factory farm' film clips here.
Image courtesy: Clare Druce