Imagine, if you will, that your child is sick. It’s not necessarily a serious illness, but it could become serious if you don’t take your child to the doctor and, perhaps, get a prescription for an antibiotic.
What do you do? It’s a no brainer, right? You take your kid to the doctor. You get the prescription. And you give your kid the antibiotics for the prescribed length of time.
Here’s the real question: What would you do if someone who wasn’t your doctor, and didn’t know you or your kid, told you that you couldn’t give those antibiotics to your child to treat an illness? And, not just for the time being, but that you couldn’t EVER use an antibiotic to treat an illness? Would you blow a gasket? Most parents would.
In the simplest terms, that’s exactly the situation livestock farmers in this country are facing. A new campaign backed by the Consumers Union is asking retailers to sell only meat that has been raised without antibiotics. While the campaign might hold a lot of appeal for some consumers, the truth is that there are all kinds of protections in place when it comes to food animals and antibiotics.
Farmers follow set best management practices in using antibiotics to treat illness and prevent disease. They work with their veterinarians to incorporate antibiotics in comprehensive herd health programs.
What’s more, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves medicines before they can be given to sick animals. And animals that receive antibiotics are not allowed to enter the food supply until after the drug clears their systems.
Let me run that by you one more time: The FDA must approve medicines before they can be used in food animals. Any animal that receives an antibiotic must be withheld from the food supply for a specified amount of time, allowing the drug to clear the animal’s system.
To top it off, inspectors from the federal government are present at processing plants to test animals bound for the food supply to make sure that antibiotic residues aren’t present. If residues are found, the animal or the milk is turned away and farmers who sold those animals are fined.
All of this is to say that dairy, beef and hog farmers use antibiotics carefully because they know it’s the right thing to do — and because their family eats the very same dairy, beef and pork products as your family.
It begs the question, ‘What would happen if farmers couldn’t give their animals antibiotics when they need them?’
The answer is simple: Most importantly, farmers would be faced with animals that aren’t as healthy and have a lower quality of life. Unhealthy animals also would lead to lower quality meat and a tightened supply chain. In other words, the industry itself could literally blow a gasket.
Just like people, animals suffer when they’re sick. Conversely, just like people, animals are happier and more productive when they’re healthy.
Finally, just like a parent can instantly tell when his or her child is sick, farmers can instantly tell when their animals are sick. Farmers work with their animals every day, often spending as much time with them as they do their own families, so farmers can tell just by looking at an animal when it is sick or is getting sick. When that happens, farmers work with their veterinarians to evaluate the animal and come up with a treatment plan that best fits the animal and the sickness.
It all boils down to this: Farmers live on the same earth, eat the same food, drink the same water and breathe the same air as you do. They want it to be just as safe for them as it is for you.