What About Chicken?

What About Chicken? Some of you readers with memories better than mine may recall that about a year ago I wrote a column for Earth Matters where I declared to the world that I was giving up eating beef because of the enormous amount of methane produced by cows and the effect of methane on global warming. I’m happy to say that I have been able to live up to that pledge pretty well and also have forsaken cow’s milk in favor of almond milk. My friend, Gene Gordon, and other members of the Vegan Club would like me to also give up all other animal products, but I’m not ready to take that step.

I do plan on paying more attention to how the chicken I eat was raised. In 2008, California voters passed legislation requiring that chickens be given room to move around. Sadly, chickens raised in other states and shipped into California are not covered by that legislation. Chickens raised and slaughtered in Georgia and other states in the South are still being kept in very un-humane conditions.

But my biggest concern is related to the use of antibiotics. Many chicken farmers routinely feed their birds doses of antibiotics nearly every day of their lives. These drugs turn a skittish, active backyard bird into a fast-growing, docile block of protein that can hardly move around. About 126 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to meat animals each year…not to cure illness, but to prevent it and promote growth. This naturally leads to germs that are antibiotic resistant. So when you and I come down with a disease, more and more drugs are proving to be ineffective. This is a grave threat and getting worse. Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in this country each year are used for animals not humans.

Drug resistant infections have no celebrity spokesmen, little political support and few patients’ organizations advocating for solutions to the problem. These infections are a vast and growing problem for children in day care, people in nursing homes and anyone who goes to the gym. They are reportedly responsible for 700,000 deaths around the world each year.

For a long time, it was assumed the antibiotic resistance was due to misuse of the drugs… parents begging for the drugs even though their children had viral illnesses that antibiotics could not help; physicians miss-prescribing, etc. We now know that agricultural use of the drugs is the main problem.

While there have been many attempts to prohibit adding antibiotics to animal feed, the farm lobby so far seems to have defeated these efforts. Hopefully, these legislative efforts will continue, but until then, each of us should be asking our grocers about whether antibiotics were fed to the animals which produced the meat they sell, and look for meat which came from animals not fed the drugs, even though it may mean paying more for it.

This article first appeared in the November 15, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Bob Hanson can be emailed at doctoroutdoors@comcast.net.

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