The Antibiotics Debate

Antibiotic use in animals – especially livestock – has long been a controversial issue that has pushed some consumers to abandon meat products all together.

For some reason, a small but vocal group of consumers believe that while it is acceptable to allow themselves to use antibiotics when they are sick , it is not acceptable to give an animal medication to help it overcome an infection or disease.

As livestock owners, my husband and I do use antibiotics to help ensure the health and well being of our animals. We do not, however, use antibiotics as a cure-all or means of helping our animals digest food that does not mesh with their digestive systems. Just like in humans, we administer antibiotics to our animals when we find them dealing with pink eye, pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses. Healthy animals are essential to creating a safe and healthy food supply.

But a recent study conducted by Kansas State University shows many consumers vastly overestimate the usage of antibiotics in animals. A news release by the National Pork Producers Council states, “The KSU study, which was published in the March issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, found that 2.8 million pounds of antibiotics were used for growth promotion/nutritional efficiency, disease prevention and disease treatment. That amount is 368 percent less than the amount asserted by UCS for just growth promotion/nutritional efficiency and disease prevention.”

The study reveals that it’s not just the use of antibiotics that angers people but the widely held belief that drugs are use as a means of encouraging growth in animals and are part of a regular feeding regimen. Lawmakers advocating for the banning of antibiotics and animal rights groups rallying around the same cause often use incorrect figures that greatly over exaggerate the situation.  That belief is simply not true.

Many livestock owners, like my husband and I, do not use antibiotics to encourage a more rapid rate of growth but instead feed our animals a nutritionally balanced diet that allows them to gain weight at a natural rate. As they move to the feedlot, the diet is changed to expedite the process of weight gain but multiple studies have shown that humans experience no side effects from the use of special diets in cattle.

Dr. Noffsinger, who is often referred to as the Cattle Whisperer, put it correctly in a recently video on the Veterinarians On Call You Tube channel, antibiotics allow for healthy animals, which in turn allows livestock owners to create a healthy, safe and affordable food supply. Think about how different your life would be without antibiotics, why would we want any different for our animals?

Learn more about cattle via the Veterinarians On Call You Tube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/veterinariansoncall?ob=0&feature=results_main


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