Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), a constant advocate for reining in the use of antibiotics in agriculture, hosted another congressional briefing on the issue Tuesday — this time featuring an NFL linebacker.
Will Witherspoon, who plays for the Tennessee Titans and owns Shire Gate Farm, joined Frank Reese of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch cooperative and veterinarian and medical expert Dr. Michael Blackwell on panel to brief staff on raising livestock without using antibiotics.
According to Rep. Slaughter’s office, Witherspoon’s Shire Gate Farm applies high-welfare, sustainable farming techniques that almost entirely rule out the need for antibiotics. “By following these techniques, Witherspoon doesn’t need to rely on routine antibiotic use to keep animals healthy or prevent disease.”
At the briefing, Slaughter emphasized her platform: that the U.S. needs to reduce its antibiotic use in food animals and address the growing public health threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
“Just last year, the United States had three major outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant foodborne illness, all from meat products,” said Slaughter. “Decades of research has shown that daily dosing of antibiotics to healthy livestock is largely to blame for the rise in resistant bacteria. Routine use of antibiotics in feed is unnecessary for raising food-animals, and I’m dedicated to addressing this problem and protecting public health.”
Frank Reese, a Kansas poultry farmer and member of the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch cooperative, raises heritage chickens and turkeys on pasture, and does not administer subtherapeutic antibiotics.
“His farm is a living example that healthy animals do not need to be fed antibiotics in order to operate a successful farm,” said Slaughter’s office.
An estimated 80 percent of all antimicrobials sold in the United States today are given to food animals.