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Antibiotic Free

Nearly 80 percent of the antibiotics in this country aren’t used on people. They’re used on animals. Animals we eat. And most of these animals aren’t even sick […] When animals are given antibiotics — even when they don’t need them — they gain weight. And since a fat pig is worth more than a skinny pig, using antibiotics — even if an animal isn’t sick — eventually increases a farmer’s profits. — Douglas Gayeton

When an animal is sick, it’s given therapeutic antibiotics. It’s like when you go to the doctor and get a prescription for antibiotics. You take them for a short period of time . . . then stop. But in concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, antibiotics are often added to the daily feed regimen of perfectly healthy livestock. In this edition of Food List, we hash out when and where antibiotics are useful for animals.

“It’s not natural for an animal to be in those tightly confined quarters,” cattleman Mike Callicrate explains. “As a result they’re subject to disease due to stress and the environment they’re in. And that disease is contagious, so they feed sub-therapeautic antibiotics to keep these animals from getting sick, but these also have the effect of increasing performance and weight gain, so it’s a crutch for them.”

That’s right. When animals are given antibiotics— even when they don’t need them—they gain weight.

Except there’s a problem. The misuse of antibiotics encourages the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bacteria that could be harmful to people. Plus, animals fed antibiotics create animal waste full of those very same antibiotics. This can contaminate our drinking water and ravage our ecosystems, which eventually allows these antibiotics to work their way back to people . . . people like you.

Lucky for us, there are people fighting the abuse of antibiotics usage. People like Nicolette Hahn Niman author of the new book Defending Beef and Richard Young of Sustainable Food Trust. They sat down to talk solutions regarding antibiotics.

At Thousand Hills Cattle Company, rancher Tod Churchill talks with Perennial Plate about raising cattle the natural way.

Journalist Jane Black tells us the one topic all food-lovers should rally behind.

Grace Communications takes us to the Meatrix. Translated into over 30 languages, this international phenomenon inspires us to support family farms.

Our friends at Food Tank introduce us to international organizations working against the overuse of antibiotics.

If all this talk about antibiotics has got you down, then Chef Ann’s recipe for pumpkin curry is sure to soothe.

This week's terms

Antibiotic Free

80% of the antibiotics used in the livestock and poultry sectors are given to animals that are not sick, to promote growth and allow them to be kept in crowded conditions. Antibiotic Free labelling is used to promote the health and welfare of food raised without subtheraputic antibiotics. It is a also a movement generated in reaction to citizens concerned about health and environmental consequences of overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Subtherapeutic Antibiotics

Low Level dosages used for extended periods of time on otherwise healthy livestock, mainly to increase their weight gain.

Therapeutic Antibiotics

A specific dose used for a limited period of time, in an amount calculated for an individual animal to cure a particular disease.

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