Antibiotics with a side of chicken anyone?

Chicken laying golden eggs

Living in a nation of meat eaters, chicken is one of the highest consumed forms of “meat” or “poultry” in the United States.  It is used by virtually every American restaurant and is available at most all grocery stores and supermarkets year round.  One could say that chicken is almost too available.  In 2011, the average American consumed 60.5 pounds of chicken alone.  What most chicken lovers are unaware of is that meat producing facilities feed chickens antibiotics prior to being slaughtered and prepped for packaging and placement on store shelves.  Large quantities of antibiotics have been incorporated into poultry farming as far back as the 1940’s.  Although antibiotics have been used in the farming of chickens for many years, the quantities and types of antibiotics used were much less than today.  The antibiotics fed to these chickens have serious health consequences to both the chickens and the consumers.  I believe antibiotics should not be fed to chickens because it creates an unnecessary disease cycle, contaminates crops through the environment and deters consumer health.

A greatly overlooked concept is the reason for why chickens are being fed antibiotics.  Farming chickens is no longer what it once used to be or as many Americans imagine it to be.  Rather, I refer to the process of chicken meat packaging as a production facility.  A majority of these chickens in production facilities have never seen the light of day.  The chickens are cooped up next to one another in a small space with no room to move at all.  This creates a very unsanitary environment where many of the chickens have to live in their own waste; resulting, is a high disease prone environment.  In turn, the chickens have to be fed even more antibiotics as a measure of disease control.  Over time, chickens build up immunity to certain antibiotics, become ill again and have to be fed a new antibiotic.  There are certain antibiotics used to treat diseases such as salmonella breakouts within chicken meat packing facilities.  This year, the antibiotics used to treat the chickens with salmonella are not all working in a particular outbreak.  The current strains are resistant to a number of antibiotics including ampicillin, Chloramphenicol , tetracycline and streptomycin.  Many of these antibiotics were created to cure diseases such as tuberculosis, acne, rosacea, rashes, and common diseases in third world countries.  Chickens are not meant to be fed the amount or the types of antibiotics currently being given to them.  Antibiotics should not be given to chickens because it creates a cycle of disease and increased usage of even more antibiotics. 

Approximately 75% of these antibiotics are not fully digested and eventually pass on to the environment.  The antibiotics not digested by the chickens passes on to their manure which is vastly used as an important input in United States agricultural land.  Vegetables such as corn, potatoes and lettuce are known to absorb antibiotics when farmed in soil fertilized with livestock manure.  Currently manure containing antibiotics is not formerly banned or prohibited.  For crops such as spinach and lettuce which are just washed and eaten, much of the antibiotics still remain.  Studies have shown that there has been an increase of antibiotic traces in potato tubers suggesting increase contamination of root vegetables such as radishes and carrots.  The Soil Association is taking measures into their own hands and demanding proper surveillance  of antibiotic usage and resistance for farm animals including chickens.  The Soil Association is greatly concerned with how these antibiotics being fed to chickens along with other animals is harming our environment and agriculture.  Antibiotics fed to livestock such as chickens can be passed down to our environment and into our crops contaminating our environment where we grow fresh produces and crops. 

As the antibiotics are fed to chickens and passed down into our environment, consumers get slammed double from both the poultry meat as well as produce and crops grow in contaminated soil.  Antibiotics pose serious consequences to our health. In 2011, drug makers sold approximately 30 million pounds of antibiotics for livestock for that year – accounting for 80% of all sales.  The other 20% were used for human medicinal purposes.  The National Antimicrobial Monitoring System conducts an annual meat report and found that 53% of the chicken tested was tainted with an antibiotic-resistant to E. coli.  This antibiotic can cause urinary tract infections, pneumonia and other serious illnesses in humans.  Just animals, humans also build immunity to antibiotics introduced repetitively in their systems.  The big problem for humans is if they consume resistant bacteria through uncooked meat and become ill, he or she may not be able to respond to the antibiotic treatment prescribed.  Antibiotics being passed through meat have become an increasing issue for Americans.  The National Academy of Sciences conducted calculations resulting in a $4 billion figure linked to increased health care costs directly associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the United States.   This number only represents pharmaceuticals and an extended hospital stay but does not take into account the loss of work productivity and suffering.  Antibiotics fed to chickens harm our nation through consumption of chicken meat along with contaminated produce.

I believe antibiotics should not be given to chickens because it creates disease resulting in an increased usage of antibiotics, poisons crops via the environment and creates serious health risks for humans.  Antibiotics are given to chickens because of their unhealthy disease creating environment.  This leads to immunity of the antibiotics and continuous introduction of new forms of antibiotics into the livestock.  The antibiotics not fully digested in the chicken’s system exits into the manure.  The manure is largely used as fertilizer for agricultural purposes contaminating crops that humans eat.  Thus, humans are posed with serious health implications via consumption of chicken meat and infected crops.  This has put humans at risk to a number of diseases as well as builds immunities to antibiotics.  Consumers can make smarter decisions by buying chicken meat that is labeled with “not treated with antibiotics”.  This is a safer option for consumers and will help save money in the form of not having to pay for extensive medical bills in the future. Buying chicken meat not treated with antibiotics can help greatly save your health and the environment.

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One Comment to “Antibiotics with a side of chicken anyone?”

  1. It’s interesting to find out that the meat we purchase in our markets are actually “tainted” with antibiotics that we as consumers don’t want to ingest while we aren’t sick. I’m going to assume anyone who has taking a basic biology or microbiology course and has learnt about antibiotics, knows that if you do not take the correct amount, your body can build up an immunity to it. I’ve personally had to deal with having to take multiple antibiotics while I was sick a few years ago because the first few I was given wasn’t working. Now after reading this article it scares me to think that it was because of meat I possibly could have consumed that was treated with so many antibiotics!
    On a side note, this also made me wonder if these companies are in cahoots with the pharmaceutical companies as to take our money with the purchasing of multiple antibiotics to try and get better. BUT that’s just me jumping to conclusions. Other than that it really is scary to think that the population as a whole isn’t aware of these types of things that are being force fed to the meat we consume before their slaughter. I for one will be letting my family know about this because I do not want them or myself to consume anymore meat that is being treated for diseases that could be prevented if these companies took proper measures and raised these animals correctly before their untimely death.

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