Fact: Using antibiotics responsibly is an important part of the welfare of our animals, food safety, and sustainability.
Science is an amazing tool that helps us to understand how AND WHY things work throughout the universe. Science uses standardized methodologies, a strict level of testing, and enforces repeatability. But science can be a difficult topic to communicate.
Unfortunately, some try to make something look scientific to have the illusion of credibility. Take for example the new report by the NRDC on “How Top Restaurants Rate on Reducing Antibiotic Use in Their Meat Supply Chains”.
When you first read the media coverage on this report, you get the impression that they either found antibiotics in the meat at 22 of the 25 burger restaurants they evaluated or they have intimate knowledge about how much antibiotics are being used at the farms sourcing these restaurants.
But upon further review, this is not the case. It becomes clear that they are actually evaluating the written antibiotic POLICIES of each fast-food burger joint included in the report – with two receiving an A, one receiving a D-, all others receiving an F. When you dig into the 63 page report, you learn that the only two restaurants that received an A source beef raised without antibiotics. It quickly becomes apparent that a good grade is awarded to restaurants who support farms that do not use antibiotics.
Despite my frustration with the misleading messages and scare tactics used in this report, I share a concern about antibiotic resistance. With this in mind, I want to clear up a few false rumors that seem to be spreading around:
Truth: The meat that you purchase at a burger joint or your local grocery store are safe. All animals that receive any antibiotic treatment MUST go through a waiting period prior to being harvested for food to let the antibiotic leave their system.
Truth: Unhealthy animals can carry more bacteria. Through responsible antibiotic use and keeping our animals healthy, there is less risk of bacteria contaminating our food.
Truth: The farms that I have the privilege of working with taking antibiotic treatments seriously. Farmers and veterinarians are committed to using antibiotics responsibly. Using antibiotics responsibly means using antibiotics to treat animals if they are ill and to stop illnesses from spreading.
Responsible antibiotic use is the right thing to do for the welfare of the animals in our care AND sustainability of a safe & wholesome food supply.
Antibiotic resistance is real and so are the many scientific factors that play into the big picture of a safe food supply. As a mother and veterinarian, I love science – and I love sharing a good burger with my family! I urge you to PLEASE read to learn, listen to understand and don’t take media reports at a glance or half-truth headlines. Dig deep, seek to understand – American farmers are feeding you safely every day.
If you have any questions regarding responsible antibiotic use please speak with your Pipestone veterinarian.
Carissa Odland, DVM