Animals raised to be food get diseases easily. There’s a lot of them hanging around in one place, waiting to die, so it’s not terribly surprising that they get sick. Precautions have to be taken, which is why these animals have long been given antibiotics. The problem with antibiotics is that feeding animals too many of them breeds disease-resistant germs. But it’s possible that a solution exists, and bonus: It sort of seasons chickens from the inside. Oregano oil may be a natural solution to protecting chickens from germs without antibiotics, and also probably making them taste like pizza.
Belle and Evans Farms in Pennsylvania has been using oregano oil to keep its chickens healthy for about three years now. Its owner, Scott Sechler, told The New York Times, “I have worried a bit about how I’m going to sound talking about this … But I really do think we’re on to something here.” We guess what he means is he doesn’t want to sound like a hippie, but sometimes, hippie stuff works and you gotta respect that. Anyway, he administers the oil to his chickens by adding it to their feed, and thinks it works quite well. The product he uses is made in Holland, and is called Ropadiar, which sounds weird unless you are Dutch. (If you are a chicken, of course, it just sounds like every other stupid thing humans say.)
The stuff seems to work, not just on Sechler’s farm but in at least one clinical trial. In 1999, Bayer did a study comparing oregano oil’s effectiveness to Bayer’s products for controlling E. coli in piglets. Oregano oil outperformed the Bayer products in all four test groups. (The guy who did the study probably went out afterward and drank a bunch of beers and did the math on how much he could make working at an oregano oil company, and was all, “Fuck.”)
Sechler pointed out that animals can’t stay healthy if all you do is give them oregano oil. Meaning you can’t have the animals swimming in urine and spraying each other with feces and chicken semen and think, oh, yeah, everything is fine, they’re taking oregano oil! Farm workers have to disinfect and clean constantly as well to keep infection at bay. Still, farmers are optimistic about this new development in animal health. Country View Family Farms in Pennsylvania, which raises pigs, is going to try out oregano oil with its livestock.
Oregano oil probably isn’t the end of big meat producers using antibiotics on their animals. But it’s definitely encouraging, and delicious. Though you probably still should become a vegetarian, if you really care that much.
- In Hopes of Healthier Chickens, Farms Turn to Oregano, New York Times
Get Grist in your inbox