By some accounts, over 14,000 Americans a year die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Where are they picked up?
Hospitals! Staph is a name you will hear mumbled under breaths in hospitals coast to coast. Staph and other forms of lethal bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. What’s the problem? Well, for starters, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that nearly 70% of U.S. antibiotic production finds its way to livestock, creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Perhaps 90% of the beef in America is feedlot beef, processed by unskilled labor at the rate of 400 cows per hour. Sound appealing so far?
Nearly 100% of the cattle in the U.S. start off on grass. But once the cattle proceed to the massive commercial feedlots in huge semi-trucks, the inhumane death spiral of stress, toughness, and sickness sets in. Large feedlots use irradiation and chemical baths to compensate for breakneck processing speeds. Feedlot conditions mandate constant medicating. For a number of months, feedlot cattle are finished on grain, corn, and even animal parts. The key here is speed, as feedlot cattle margins are wafer-thin, with profits averaging perhaps as little as $3 per head.
Cattle are ruminants and do not tolerate corn well. And yet over the 1995–2006 period alone, 1.5 million agricultural producers received corn subsidies of over $56 billion. Yup, that’s a “b” not an “m.” Corn explains everything about the cattle industry. It explains why we have to give cattle antibiotics (corn does not agree with a cow’s digestive system). It explains why we have an E. coli problem (corn acidifies a cow’s digestive system in a way that allows bacteria to survive). Antibiotics fed to animals easily end up in the water supply, where bacteria develop a resistance, leading to a need for even more potent antibiotics.
Here’s a bone to chew on. In Nicolette Hahn Niman’s excellent book Righteous Pork Chop, she notes that 11 states have actually enacted laws making it illegal to publicly criticize factory farm food. What happened to the first amendment of America’s Constitution?
The mass production of corn-fed cattle in confined feedlots is the major culprit in the antibiotic/agriculture mess. The Wall Street Journal recently ran an editorial-page feature on the situation, telling us that the FDA is now taking some timid steps to rein in excessive use of antibiotics. A new FDA document suggests that drugs should be limited to preventing infections before infections occur. It suggests that oversight by veterinarians would likely restrain excessive drug use.
I’ll give a five-hour speech supporting the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan before any thump follows the recent FDA proclamation. Try to picture the scenario: country vet tromps out to mega commercial feed lot to the din and stench of thousands of penned-in cows, all standing hip-deep in poisonous rain-soaked manure and asks, “Who’s in charge here? You’re not using any antibiotics, are you? You know the FDA only wants antibiotics used to prevent illness.” The country vet had better touch base with the folk at the corn lobby and Monsanto. No, I don’t think there are too many takers in this crowd for the no-more-antibiotics rap. It’s time to hit the road back to Pleasantville, Mr. Country Vet, before things really start to get ugly. And when you get back home, you may want to pop Food, Inc. into your DVD player and check out the ’tude of the nice hybrid corn folk at Monsanto. Talk about unpleasant.
So cut the FDA crap. No one’s going to be shutting off the antibiotic tap, because corn-fed cows will croak sans the antibiotics. Talk about backing up the front-end loaders and dump trucks at the feedlots. What’s your bet? I’ll go with the feedlot gang, Monsanto, and the corn lobby. Seems to be a winning hand, don’t you think? Not for you or me, of course, but your elected officials don’t give a rat’s keister about what you feed your kids, never mind your venerable self. Let me tell you, take a gander at Food Inc., read a few Joel Salatin or Michael Pollan books, and your days at the big-box commercial supermarket will be over. I won’t step into one. You and your family do not have to have your immune system and your health compromised by antibiotic- and hormone-riddled feedlot meat. Not a chance.
America has an antibiotics/agriculture crisis. I’ll spend the next couple of Lifesaver articles bailing you and the family out of the antibiotics/hormones trough. I’ll have a lot of neat life-saving and -expanding stuff for you. And all this neat intelligence won’t cost you anything except your timely return to my Insight & Incite Site at Richardcyoung.com. Make it a non-commercial feedlot week.