Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Anti-Microbials in the News

Anti-Microbials are in the news. I'm happily surprised the Chronicle quoted so many people - vets, scientists and farmers explaining that treating animals improves their welfare:
"Our experience in veterinary medicine is that the use of measured, extremely small amounts of these compounds actually lowers mortality rates and reduces pain and suffering of livestock and poultry."
People who raise animals under regimes that forbid treating them with modern methods are in a jam: they know their animals suffer unnecessary morbidity and mortality, but the rules forbid them from taking steps to prevent unnecessary suffering and death.

Text not available
All siblings, the wormy pigs are 12 and 15 pounds, while the uninfected one is 90 pounds.
Yearbook By United States Dept. of Agriculture

There's nothing romantic about dead, sick or stunted animals - yet that's what you get if you don't give them what they need to be healthy.

In the end, I think the tide will turn against standards like "Naturally Raised" when consumers come to understand the toll they take on the animals and the producers (who have to deal with the sick, dead or stunted animals on a daily basis).


Melissa said...

Is there any standard out there that you feel is a happy medium? I have known farmers who care about their individual animals too much to do organic or naturally raised. They certainly didn't have antibiotics in the feed for all their animals, but if an animal was sick it got what it needed.

I guess concerned consumers just have to find those people through word of mouth and the simple good quality of their products.

Heath said...

I think the people in the standards promotion business are inclined to devise standards that sound good (e.g. all vegetarian pig feed) but that are unnatural and harmful for the pigs:

Also, the standards business is a very political one. E.g. if a guy wants to start complying with a standard, so that he can start selling his production in a new channel, his competitors (already in the channel) have an interest in keeping him out of the group, legitimately or not, to keep supplies tight. That's true whether you are talking about a new pig producer wanting to sell to Niman ranch, or a big farm wanting to convert to organic.

Then you have company-created standards, which are constructed arbitrarily so as to differentiate them from their competitors.

I've explained my general philosophy in this blog. Basically, I'm in favor of using human ingenuity (skill, medicine, technology, etc) to increase animal welfare while producing the best-tasting food possible.