Friends and family who know me well have referred to me as a food Nazi either sotto voce, tongue-in-cheek, or jokingly. And the sobriquet (love that word and only rarely get to use it) is fitting for those who don’t care about GMO, dwarf grain, epigenetics or much of the information on nutrition I find fascinating; it’s ok, I get that.
Only recently, have I become aware of the magnitude of my ignorance about the food I eat-specifically meat. For a while, I’ve preferred grass fed beef simply because it makes sense but I was unaware of the magnitude of the risk we take when we consume the less expensive meats we purchase in the grocery store.
One of the many things I have loved about living in our high desert rural valley has been watching the new life appear among the many herds of cattle that dot the landscape in our valley, along the main freeway to Reno and along the back mountain roads to California. Bucolic and beautiful scenes of healthy cattle grazing on green grass or more often in our winters, dry sage brush and brown grasses that these animals manage to extract sufficient nutrition for themselves and the babies they will have in the early spring. Still however, they have plenty of room to roam along with the tiny calves when they begin to appear in mid-February.
Like you, I have heard of CAFO facilities but did not bother to investigate beyond the meaning of the acronym: Confined Animal Feeding Operations. No need for a degree in animal husbandry needed to feel an intuitive and highly negative reaction to the concept. The term connotes the opposite of what I have been describing. But only when I have seen these places, almost always on back roads, away from where the public can see them to I understand why our animals are fed a constant antibiotics in their food. And have been for many years.
These confined feeding areas are huge. Mile after mile of cows crammed shoulder to shoulder with hardly any room to mover never mind roam. The stress to these animals must be enormous as is of course the risk of disease. Rather than grass, the cattle are living in their own excrement and that of others. The odor is, of course, foul and repulsive but the reason I write is neither the aesthetics or the barbaric and savage treatment of animals, it is a far more serious matter even than those: your health, perhaps your life or that of someone you love.
Consider these facts please:
- A recent Scientific American study predicts that antibiotic resistance will kill 300 million people by 2050.
- Agriculture accounts for 80% of the antibiotic usage in this country.
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that two million American adults and children become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year.
- Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, and homicide.
- Between 1973 and 2011, there were 55 antibiotic-resistant foodborne outbreaks in the US, and more than half of them involved pathogens resistant to five or more antibiotics.
- Last October, the Washington Post reported ‘tens of thousands taking to the streets in over 22 European countries in protest over a ‘free trade’ deal between the US and the EU.
- Why? Because Europeans refuse to eat antibiotic , hormone treated beef, chicken washed in chlorine and glysophate soaked engineering materials.
Do I have your attention now?
- Great, please take 10 minutes and watch Allen Lewis in this 5 minute TED talk.
- Decide now to buy only antibiotic free beef and chicken- grass fed beef.
- And start talking about this, to everyone you know.