A recent article in The New York Times reported that finally, the government is starting to listen to concerns from the medical community (including the American Medical Association and the Infectious Disease Society of America) that the routine use of antibiotics in animals is causing antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.
There are two reasons farmers routinely give antibiotics to animals. The first is to “prevent” disease in animals that are being raised in horrible, filthy, and inhumane conditions. The second reason it that, for some reason unknown to scientists and doctors and farmers, antibiotics “promote growth” much more cheaply than real food does. Now, to a farmer, what “promoting growth” really means is “fattening up.” With antibiotics, farmers can save a few dollars per animal by using a drug instead of real food to get it to a weight worthy of slaughter. This, in turn, lets the farmer make a few more dollars per animal in profit, and saves the supermarket buyers a few more cents per pound. This sounds great, right? After all, politicians love cheap food because it keeps voters well fed and happy at the polls.
Think for a minute…think…. We now know with almost 100 percent certainty that the use of those antibiotics is causing hundreds of thousands of people to get sick with infections that are resistant to our most powerful medicines. I know this because I sit on the board of our local hospital and I see the statistics. It’s real. I also know that hospitals’ greatest concerns are the chronic diseases caused by obesity. They have special slings installed in new rooms to lift people because two, even three, or four nurses can’t lift many of the patients. Waiting room chairs come in “extra wide.” Is it possible that all that antibiotic-laced food that we eat fattens US up, too?
I think so. Let’s think about pigs for just a moment. Pigs are really forest animals. They are happiest in the wild foraging for things like acorns, fruits, and nuts (and the lucky ones eat truffles!). They make nests! We take those animals and keep them in cages so tightly packed that they have to have their tails cut off, so the other pigs don’t bite them off out of annoyance when that little tail pokes through into their space. They are pumped with antibiotics and GMO chemical corn and soybeans, and whatever other garbage farmers can find for cheap, so they can be fattened up as quickly as possible, slaughtered, and sent to our local discount grocer in a sterile package with a “Sale!” sticker on it. And then, we eat it. Yes, we eat more than we should. And we eat it slathered with sticky high-fructose corn syrup–laden BBQ sauces. But it’s cheap, and it tastes so good.
Our constitution calls for the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It does not call for the right to cheap food, lax safety regulations, and the pursuit of gluttony. Yes, we Americans eat too much. But I would not be surprised if it’s also true that the way we fatten up our animals also fattens us up. And we know as we spread our cheap food mentality to other countries, their obesity levels rise and their longevity decreases.
Here’s the real truth: Cheap food is killing us. Bon appétit!