drug resistance in animals
May 21, 2010, 10:02 pm
Filed under: chickens, food, food issues | Tags: , , ,

I recently came across this very interesting and informative article about a woman who researches industrial agriculture. This is an easy to read and very interesting –did I say very interesting –article. Yes I believe I did. You should read it. She’s neat!

I’m making a long post here–stick with it–and…there’s even more good stuff in the article!

One big point–people have known about drug resistance for a LONG time: “In his 1945 Nobel Prize address, Alexander Fleming warned that it was easy to produce microbes resistant to his discovery, penicillin: Simply expose them to concentrations of the drug insufficient to kill them. Possibly the first warning that antibiotics could produce drug-resistant pathogens in poultry came as far back as 1951, when two bacteriologists at the University of California noted…”The use of streptomycin as a growth-promoting supplement in turkey poults results in the appearance within three days of streptomycin-resistant coliform bacteria.”

Say what? We’ve known for THAT long??

Of course there’s more….”She found that 41 percent of the chicken catchers had been colonized by Campylobacter jejuni, which is commensal in poultry — it derives benefit from the chicken without harming it — but pathogenic in people, where it’s the second-leading cause of gastrointestinal disease in the United States. Among the workers at the poultry processing plant, the rate of colonization was 63 percent. Of the nine people who lived near but did not work in the industry, 100 percent had been colonized.”

This is so interesting!

And then she gets into the whole discussion of how the industrial model emerged so that use of antibiotics would become a given–tight controls by big business:

“In 1987, Frank Morison, a second-generation Eastern Shore farmer, approached Perdue to get into the chicken business. There was no such thing as becoming a poultry farmer by simply buying some chickens to raise. If you did not have a contract with a processor like Perdue, Tyson, or Mountaire, you would have great difficulty buying chicks, buying feed, or finding a place to sell your broilers after they’d reached market weight. Basically, Morison says, anything but doing business with a big processor was impossible. So Morison borrowed $200,000 against his house and his land to build a pair of 20,000-square-foot barns. Perdue specified every aspect of the construction.

After the barns were built, one day a truck pulled up to the farm and delivered 54,400 chicks, plus the feed that Morison, by stipulation of his contract with Perdue, was to feed them. Perdue dictated the number and type of chicks, which they owned and merely consigned to Morison; the amount, price, and composition of feed; and the date, 51 to 53 days later, on which workers would be back to pick up the grown birds for processing. Whenever the chickens from his farm were processed, Perdue informed Morison how much they weighed, how much it would pay him per pound, and how much the company was deducting for feed and other supplies it had required him to use. Morison says in the end he typically cleared 2 percent to 3 percent per flock, not counting his labor.”

This is depressing, for sure.

Ok I need to sign off, but there’s more!! The researcher in me, loved the part about how she designed what they called the “baby-you-can-drive-my-car” study. She was wondering about the transfer of pathogens and the smelly chicken trucks, so they followed them with sensors to measure it! They followed the trucks and then measured how much bacteria wound up in the car. How cool is that? Ok maybe you don’t think that’s cool, but that’s cool!!! And disgusting.

Amazing stuff. And there’s a nice takeaway point. Sigh….

“The whole debate exasperates Silbergeld, who says, “These are feed additives. It’s like using antibiotics as hair dye.” She adds, “We have this practice of permitting the addition of almost any antibiotic that you can think of to animal feed, for no therapeutic purpose, under conditions that absolutely favor the rise of resistance. We have no controls or management of the wastes. Our food safety system is a shambles. This is a situation that is widely recognized by the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and by others, and nothing happens! It’s astounding to me!”

And to me too. Thanks for doing this important work Dr. Silbergeld!


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