Too chicken to say what they really feed the poultry
“Raised without antibiotics” is a nice label to see on a package of chicken.
As of yesterday, even McDonald’s is joining the pack and pledging to phase out the use of human antibiotics in chicken — gradually — over the next two years. Yes, they won’t use any more HUMAN antibiotics . So that really tells us nothing of the other antibiotics, for OTHER ANIMALS, that they might see fit to continue to pump into their flocks. Feeding chickens fistfuls of chicken antibiotics would still be fair play under the terms they stated in their announcement, of course.
I would like to know why I don’t ever see packages of chicken, or chicken listed on menus, that announces that the poultry has been “Raised WITH antibiotics.” You know, since it’s believed to be an OK practice and healthful and all, let’s just have that info out there for all of us to see.
Like me, for instance. Since I’m allergic to penicillin and sulfa drugs, I would really appreciate that information. Since I’m able to find out lots of fun facts about peanuts and tree nuts in food on FDA-mandated packaging, I’d like to know if penicillin is in the bird I’m going to eat, just in case there’s potential for, say, a life-threatening penicillin reaction with those nuggets.
As well as the potential for destroying the effectiveness of antibiotics in general and thereby hastening the demise of humanity as we know it. But since the industry likes to keep the use of antibiotics in chicken very, very quiet, that’s pretty unlikely to happen any time soon.
One might also wonder why the chickens were so sick in the first place. What have they been using these antibiotics for? Did they all have sinus infections? Bronchitis? Chicken syphilis?
No, it turns out that livestock farmers figured out years ago that animals would gain 3 percent more weight per year if they got pumped full of the drugs that finally gave humanity some mastery over tuberculosis, gonorrhea, diphtheria and other merciless killers. In other words, industry thought it was OK to squander potential life-saving drugs in the food supply, wantonly, to make some chickens fat. (There are other ways to do that, too — namely, feeding the chickens more food. But that would be more expensive, and it’s not like the public or politicians or regulators were trying to stop them from drugging the fat chickens.)
As the FDA points out on its website, “Antibiotics are added to the animal feed or drinking water of cattle, hogs, poultry and other food-producing animals to help them gain weight faster or use less food to gain weight.” Right. So the producers spend less on food, and you get more traces of antibiotics.
The FDA introduced a voluntary plan in December 2013 to phase out key human antibiotics in livestock. The deputy director for science policy at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine Flynn said that the participation was voluntary because it was a more efficient way to change manufacturers’ approach.
But I beg to differ. I think industry might volunteer to get the drugs out of the food animals faster if they all got nice little mandatory stickers advertising what was really in the meat. “Fed with antibiotic water.” “Now with even more pharmaceutical feed.”
If they label the antibiotic-tainted meats with their real origins, the companies will see what the market will bear pretty darn fast.
People might not be excited to shell out extra money for organic poultry, but most families are not willing to spend a dime on drumsticks if they’re reminded they have extra pharmaceuticals.
Am I in a tizzy over nothing? How do you feel about drugs being fed to livestock you will eat later so that companies can save money on feed?