Organic Agriculture vs. Superbugs

There are so many reasons to raise animals as they were meant to be raised, outdoors and on pasture, not confined to a warehouse-like building or bare-dirt feedlot and given synthetic feeds. One of those many reasons why organic farming is so important is something that you have probably heard about in the mainstream media: the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Under US Department of Agriculture organic standards, an organic farm can’t administer antibiotics to animals. On the other hand, conventional farmers have traditionally had few limitations put on their antibiotic use.

When industrial efficiency began to trump environmental sustainability and meat production became an industry, concentrated animal-feeding operations (you might know them as CAFOs or factory farms) began feeding a low dose of antibiotics to livestock. This served two purposes: it helped the animals stay healthy, even while being kept in these stressful, crowded conditions, and it caused the animals to gain weight faster while requiring less feed.

A side effect to this sub therapeutic dose of antibiotics is that bacteria began evolving into superbugs. When a strain of bacteria is exposed to a low level of antibiotics, it becomes immune to the antibiotics. This low dose of poison is not enough to kill the strongest of the bacteria, and these go on to reproduce even stronger offspring.

This is the situation the world is facing now, with more than 2 million human infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The medical community and consumer groups have long been calling for an end to antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture, but the US Food and Drug Administration has only recommended voluntary changes to judicious antibiotic use with no actual laws being written so far.

In organic production, antibiotics are not allowed, and in a low-stress, pasture-based system like ours, there is no need for a low dose of antibiotics to keep our animals healthy. The sunshine, natural and diverse diets, and plenty of space to roam do that instead.

 

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