The Meat (or Food) We Eat
October 29, 2015
In my last article, I discussed the Veterinary Feed Directive that is coming from the Food and Drug Administration. This directive lays out the proper use of medicines in livestock production, especially those medicines with applications in humans. This week, another antibiotic news article caught my attention. Subway and their announcement to use only meats from animals that have never been treated with antibiotics. This news has been everywhere-Facebook, newspapers, radio, television, etc. As an educator, I felt it was time to share some information about this issue.
First, even if animals have been treated with antibiotics, there is no residue in the meats you eat, due to withdrawal times for antibiotics. The United States Department of Agriculture randomly tests carcasses for residues from pesticides, contaminants, and veterinary drugs including antibiotics. In 2011, USDA screened for 128 chemicals from the above categories, and 99 percent of the tested carcasses were free of all them. Conventional and organic carcasses are not reported separately, but overall contaminant risk is extremely low. When tested for pathogens, organic carcasses tended to have more pathogen contamination, possibly due to the lack of antibiotics, than carcasses from conventionally-raised cattle. Of the pathogens found on conventional carcasses, there was a higher percentage of antibiotic resistant organisms but, remember, there were less contaminants.
Second, dairy products and what does it mean to be antibiotic and hormone free? ALL MILK SOLD HAS TO BE ANTIBIOTIC FREE. As a dairy inspector for the state of South Dakota, part of my duties were to sample farm tanks and tanker trucks for antibiotic contamination. If there was any, the milk was dumped down the drain and the producer that caused the contamination paid for all contaminated product. That would be a huge financial hit! When a cow was treated for a disease, believe me, she was identified and milked separately, with that milk being sent down the drain of the dairy barn. This leads to what does it mean to be hormone free. There is no such thing as hormone free as small amounts of hormones in milk are naturally occurring. Bovine somatotropin (BST) or bovine growth hormone (BHG) is a naturally-occurring hormone in cows that helps them produce milk. Amount of BST secreted in milk depends upon stage of lactation, parity, nutrition, and herd environment. Growth hormone is a protein hormone produced in the pituitary gland of animals, including humans, and is essential for normal growth, development, and health maintenance. The synthetic form or recombinant growth hormone (rBST), which is the same form as the natural growth hormone (BST), is the one hormone the public is mostly concerned about. It has been found, through research, that BST/BHG can be converted in the human body to a hormone called IGF-1, an insulin type growth hormone. It was found that this hormone was considerably higher in people that drank large amounts of cow milk. Upon further testing, it was found that eating animal and soy protein can also dramatically increase IGF-1 levels in the human body. A 2009 FDA report says that IGF-1 levels in rBGH milk are safe. For further information, go to this link: http://igrow.org/livestock/dairy/hormones-whats-in-your-milk/
Third, research needs to be looked at for the amount of testing and cases that were studied. While attending college, it was drilled into me that the number of subjects in a study is what gave a finding merit. If a study only has 50 individuals involved, it does not carry as much weight as study that involves 2,000 individuals. As a teacher, I have always told my students to check their facts before jumping to any conclusions. Check the facts and verify the studies they are using as the source of a statement.
On that note, I advise everyone that is involved in agriculture to be an advocate. Less than 2 percent of the population in the United States is involved in production agriculture, so it is our job to inform the other 98 percent of what production agriculture is all about. I think it is important for us to educate everyone about our profession. For help managing your operation, contact the SD Center of Farm/Ranch Management at Mitchell Technical Institute. To contact the SDCFRM office or any of our instructors, call 1-800-684-1969 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.