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View Diary: Antibiotics used in livestock: Making us even sicker than we thought (120 comments)

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  •  I can't thank you enough for this succinct, (40+ / 0-)

    well written post. Yes indeed: 80% of antibiotics are used in beef, chicken, pork and other animal production including farmed fish. Not just for weight gain, but for crowding closer than they should be to prevent infection outbreaks.

    How long have we as a society been taking these into our systems? My understanding is that it slowly ramped up from the 1950's on.

    So here we are in the next century with new zoonotic infections on the rise due to climate change and we, the public are being told we must reduce our use of antibiotics.

    I agree, a virus like a cold should not be treated with antibiotics, and apparently this practice became widespread in the 1970s and 1980s.

    But today, with our battered immune systems trying to adapt to many airborne, waterborne and food borne toxins, we may need antibiotics more than ever.

    They are cheap (hence the use in agriculture. Heck I get my yearly dose of Streptomycin by air for FireBlight prevention in pear orchards.); they are very low on the toxicity rating the FDA uses to judge the potential damage a med or treatment may impose on a system.

    New or recombined antibiotics are not high in pharma research because they are generally...oh yes, cheap.

    So here we are. Feed lots will become a thing of the past, it's a matter of when.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 03:01:40 PM PDT

    •  I didn't even realize that antibiotics (8+ / 0-)

      increase weight in animals.  But I knew that antibiotic use in fish farming is because of overcrowding.  And where I live one can't even buy wild salmon anymore.  Many escaped fish produce young with wild ones.  Sigh.

      The Republicans are defunding, not defending, America.

      by DSPS owl on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 07:45:38 PM PDT

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      •  With beef cattle (1+ / 0-)
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        the ranchers feed them antibiotics daily because the corn they are using to fatten them up quickly makes them more susceptible to infection.  The ranchers feed them antibiotics to keep them from getting sick.  (Cows have evolved to eat grass, not corn.  But if you feed them grass, it takes 2x as long to get them to market.)

        The NYT did an article about this.
        In 2011, drug-makers sold 30 million pounds of antibiotics for livestock — about 80% of all reported antibiotic sales that year. The rest was for human health care. Rather than healing sick animals, these drugs are often fed to animals at low levels to make them grow faster and to suppress diseases that arise because they live in dangerously close quarters on top of one another’s waste.

        My mother in law has a chronic MRSA infection.  Hers came from a hospitalization.  It's no fun.

        •  A little over a month ago, I switched to a largely (1+ / 0-)
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          plant based diet for health reasons.  Veggies and fruit are the backbone of my diet with some healthy fats, grains, and a little meat added in.  I committed to only eating antibiotic free, naturally raised meat, so that winds up limiting our meat intake, since it can be hard to find and is expensive.  As a result, I have several meat free days a week.  

          Since we are all down with summer colds, though, tonight I prepared a big pot of free-range, medication free chicken soup with sweet potato dumplings.

        •  Corn does not make cattle sick (0+ / 0-)

          and there's nothing in that article that even hints that.
          Cattle are able to digest just about anything, including corn, and to say that they evolved to eat grass, not corn, simply ignores the beauty of the ruminant's digestive system.

          Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

          by skohayes on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 02:30:01 AM PDT

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        •  Technically, corn is a grass ... (0+ / 0-)

          It's part of the family Poaceae, just like all other "true grasses", and it is genetically similar to all of these family members.

          •  If you say so. (0+ / 0-)

            A corn-based diet can create an acidic environment that is known to contribute to health problems, including diarrhea, liver disease, ulcers and a weak immune system. To address these issues, cows are continually fed antibiotics (increasingly making headlines and the subject of Robby Kenner’s latest project Meat Without Drugs).  Cows hopped up on drugs can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that appear to be making modern medicine ineffective. The FDA approved the use of antibiotics in livestock in the 1950s after studies showed that animals that got the drugs in their feed put on more weight in less time than animals on a
            traditional diet.

            Also, cows are ruminants--multiple stomachs are built to eat grass and process the nutrition offered in that grass.

            Bottom line:  the chemicals fed to the cows to keep them healthy-ish are passed on to humans who eat their meat.

            •  No, they are not passed on to humans (0+ / 0-)

              They have done studies in numerous countries to test that hypothesis and all of those studies found no or very slightly (to the point of statistical insignificance) higher levels of chemicals in grass-fed cow meat as corn-fed/antibiotic-used cow meat.

        •  I don't know where (1+ / 0-)
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          you're information comes from, but it leaves out some important facts that are conveniently ignored by those who have an ax to grind.  Consider this;

               Dr David Barber, a USDA veterinary researcher, published an article in the May 15, 2001 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. In it he estimated that in the US the total weight of food producing animals at 134.6 billion pounds, and humans at 40.1 billion, 77% vs 23%. Just on a pound- for-pound basis, he found that humans and pets used 10 times more antibiotics than farm animals.

          This ratio hasn't changed all that much.  Also, antibiotics are NOT fed to "suppress diseases that arise because they live in dangerously close quarters on top of one another's waste".  This lie has been repeated so often by the Animal Rightists that it is now accepted as the truth.  Why don't you go talk to a livestock producer?  They actually know what they're doing.   AR publications are written by some idiot who has never raised a calf, puppy, lamb, etc from start to finish, and wouldn't know a prolapse from thrush.

          •  A corn diet (0+ / 0-)

            can also give a cow acidosis. Michael Pollan bought a steer and followed it through it's life cycle and documented it very helpfully so I don't have to go talk to a livestock producer. NONE of the ranchers feel good about feeding corn to their cows but they can't make a living at it by raising cattle on grass.

            Unlike that in our own highly acidic stomachs, the normal pH of a rumen is neutral. Corn makes it unnaturally acidic, however, causing a kind of bovine heartburn, which in some cases can kill the animal but usually just makes it sick. Acidotic animals go off their feed, pant and salivate excessively, paw at their bellies and eat dirt. The condition can lead to diarrhea, ulcers, bloat, liver disease and a general weakening of the immune system that leaves the animal vulnerable to everything from pneumonia to feedlot polio.

            Cows rarely live on feedlot diets for more than six months, which might be about as much as their digestive systems can tolerate. A sustained feedlot diet would eventually ''blow out their livers'' and kill them. As the acids eat away at the rumen wall, bacteria enter the bloodstream and collect in the liver. More than 13 percent of feedlot cattle are found at slaughter to have abscessed livers.

            What keeps a feedlot animal healthy -- or healthy enough -- are antibiotics. Rumensin inhibits gas production in the rumen, helping to prevent bloat; tylosin reduces the incidence of liver infection. Most of the antibiotics sold in America end up in animal feed -- a practice that, it is now generally acknowledged, leads directly to the evolution of new antibiotic-resistant ''superbugs.'' In the debate over the use of antibiotics in agriculture, a distinction is usually made between clinical and nonclinical uses.

            •  You seem to be making the case that corn is fed (1+ / 0-)
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              exclusively.  It's not.  It is accompanied by hay, silage, and other roughage which is how bloat is prevented.  Rumensin prevents coccidiosis and aids in the appetite which, in turn, means less days on feed because they gain faster.  Tylosin helps prevent abscessed livers, again, less days on feed.

              400 pound calves entering a feedlot stay for at least 10 months, if not longer, and do very well on the rations.

              Micheal Pollan makes a lot of great sounding arguements.  Too often, in my opinion, he has figured out an answer and then backtracked for supporting data.

              •  You're making my points for me. (0+ / 0-)

                Rumensin (aka monensin) is an antibiotic.
                Tylosin is an antibiotic.

                By the time a modern American beef cow is six months old, it has seen its last blade of grass for the rest of its life. As soon as they wean, they spend the first six months out on the pasture with their moms, nursing, nibbling grass. The mom is converting the grass's protein that's turning into milk for the animal, doing the way they've done it for millions of years. We take them off grass. We put them in pens, called backgrounding pens, and we teach them how to eat something that they are not evolved to eat, which is grain, and mostly corn.

                You start giving them antibiotics, because as soon as you give them corn, you've disturbed their digestion, and they're apt to get sick, so you then have to give them drugs. That's how you get in this whole cycle of drugs and meat. By feeding them what they're not equipped to eat well, we then go down this path of technological fixes, and the first is the antibiotics. Once they start eating the [corn], they're more vulnerable. They're stressed, so they're more vulnerable to all the different diseases cows get. But specifically they get bloat, which is just a horrible thing to happen. They stop ruminating.

    •  Antibiotics kill bacteria (0+ / 0-)

      That's it.

      Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

      by skohayes on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 02:50:33 AM PDT

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      •  AS far as you know. Ask someone about Chlorine. (2+ / 0-)
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        churchylafemme, Van Buren

        Kills germs... whitens clothes and in gas form it can kill humans as 2 of my friends found out when they died in a pit while doing work at a waste water plant. Antibiotics aren't magical they are a chemical compound that has one effect that is recognized which does not preclude other effects. Sneering at those who look to see what other effects overuse of this particular group of chemicals doesn't advance anything.

        Fear is the Mind Killer...

        by boophus on Fri Sep 20, 2013 at 08:15:28 PM PDT

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        •  We have (0+ / 0-)

          more than enough scientific evidence to justify curbing the rampant use of antibiotics for livestock, yet the food and drug industries are not only fighting proposed legislation to reduce these practices, they also oppose collecting the data. Unfortunately, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, as well as the F.D.A., is aiding and abetting

        •  I'm just going with established science (0+ / 0-)

          on the issue. Various compounds have been studied for decades, we know what antibiotics do.

          Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

          by skohayes on Sat Sep 21, 2013 at 02:35:48 AM PDT

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