The FDA has inadvertently perhaps given you another reason to consider going organic or choosing grass-fed beef. Last week, the agency acknowledged a problem with livestock operations and human health with its decision to pursue steps to control antibiotic use. Antibiotics are used for three primary purposes. Disease prevention and treatment are the obvious uses. Another routine use is growth promotion.
On the surface, it appears like these uses are all wise choices for the agricultural business. After all, cutting down on losses, while ensuring a presumably better product make good sense. The problem though is the long-term effects of antibiotic use. People–and livestock–experience antimicrobial resistance after a time. Bacteria evolve and develop resistant forms. This means that antibiotic use is promoting the proliferation of bacteria that can withstand the use of common antibiotics such as tetracycline.
This is understandably a serious issue. It is complicated by the fact that global meat consumption is increasing. What’s more is that agriculture is moving more toward large-scale operations or factory farms. These situations can increase livestock stress and potentially, increase the risk for disease and its spread. By the FDA getting involved, you’d think that it was a good thing. Unfortunately, the FDA steps fall far short of making a change in the industry.
The problem is that the measures are voluntary. Farmers and veterinary pharmaceutical companies are not compelled to change. They can do so voluntarily, but undoubtedly at a loss to their bottom line. What do you think is going to happen? Even if a farmer chooses to comply, the business has up to three months to formulate a new plan and an additional three years to implement it.
This makes for a stronger incentive to go organic, or at least choose grass-fed beef. Organic farming prohibits certain practices, like use of antibiotics. You can at least be assured that the foods you eat are not setting you up for a super bug. Each year, one in six Americans suffers from some type of foodborne illness. Some people can ride out a bout. Others require hospitalization. Over 3,000 don’t make it.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is not taking this weak attempt at regulating this issue lightly. They will continue to fight for stronger regulations. In the meantime, you can make the healthier choice and help fuel the interest in organic farming. The jury is still out about whether or not organic foods are more nutritious. They are, however, better for the environment and your health from a different perspective.
If the price turns you off, cutting down on your meat consumption isn’t the worse of choices. You’ll cut the amount of saturated fat in your diet, which is not all bad if just for the calories. You may actually find that the taste is meatier and more delicious. It can be one of the best wellness decisions that you’ll ever make.