Two takes on antibiotic use on factory farms
In “Chewing the Scenery,” we round up interesting food-related videos from around the Web.
The meat industry wants to be viewed through the softening lens of the supermarket meat case: the shrink-wrapped splendor of chops, steaks, and breasts, presented in affordable and bountiful stacks. For the marketing to be effective, the dirty work of getting them there must happen offstage, in the dark. And the industry fights any effort to illuminate its practices.
Under the direction of anchorwoman Katie Couric, CBS News has been violating the industry’s perceived right to operate without scrutiny. The news agency has been doing first-rate public-interest journalism on the topic of livestock abuse on factory livestock farms.
And the industry is scrambling to defend its freedom to apply antibiotics any way it damn well pleases.
In the first video below, CBS News shows that factory farmers routinely use antibiotics as a growth promoter. (For reasons that science has never definitively explained, sub-therapeutic antibiotic doses stimulates growth in farm animals.) The report also makes strong links between routine antibiotic use on farms and the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, which have emerged as a major public health menace.
The second video is agitprop from the pork industry on the topic. Note first that both videos open in a hog factory farm. The CBS video shows pens tightly packed with large hogs; in the industry video, by contrast, a few smallish hogs wander about in each pen. According to CBS, farm operators and farm workers openly admit to using antibiotics to promote growth. In the industry video, that purpose is never mentioned.
For more information of the public health implications of routine antibiotic use on factory farms, check out my interview with Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA. And for an absurd attack on Couric’s journalistic bona fides, check out this rant from the CattleNetwork.