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.

  • wm mark cosby

    Did anyone bother to ask Mr. Reese how much his turkeys and chickens cost per pound?

  • federal microbiologist

    Did anyone ask Jeff and Deb Hansen, the owners of Iowa Select Farms, a global swine IFAP corporation with ‘production facilities’ in Kamrar, Iowa, why they don’t require their CAFO managers to use anesthetic, sterile bandages, and antibiotic ointment, when castrating male piglets ?
    Maybe if they did, they wouldn’t need to shoot up their animals with subtherapeutic, minimally cost-prohibitive, doses of antibiotics with the goal of staving off lethal bacterial infections just long enough for the pigs to reach Market Weight ?

  • Violet

    So, Mr. Reese’s chicken costs how much per pound, and Mr. Witherspoon’s beef is what price per pound? Did we find those answers yet?
    I suspect ol’ Louise Slaughter isn’t representing the hard working middle class families from her new district. You know, families on a budget hit hard by the recession and spiraling food price inflation. Elderly elitist Louise Slaughter will likely be voted out of political existence in November. I hear she’s been redistricted onto some rural territory where some real Americans live and work, no longer exclusively fancy pants upscale kosher urban constituents.

  • oldcowdoc

    mr fed,
    well other than neonate piglets are difficult to aneshetize safely and would most likely cause severe mortality, extra handling would casue increased stress to the piglets for a 20 sec. procedure,(most likley more than the actual sx., as has been shown in some cattle studies steile bandages would casue increased infection and delay would healing, not sure any topical antibiotic is labeld or indicated for the use you suggest, antibiotic use later in life is completely unrelated to to neonate castration, yea, othr than that, you suggestions have great merit.

  • Cyndy

    I have some questions for the people who are asking how much per pound these foods are going for? Well, my answer to that is this — Do you and/or your family own cell phones? Do you or anyone in your family drive an SUV or a truck or a large vehicle? Do you and your family go on vacation every year? If the answer to any of the above is “yes” then you CAN afford this type of food. My husband and I are considered “middle class” and we will gladly pay extra to know where our chicken/beef has been raised, treated, and not pumped full of antibiotics! Also, you have to look at the impact on our environment when talking about the factory farms. Oh, yeah, more other thing. When I worked for an attorney many years ago one of our clients owned a company that pumped water into the chickens that were being sold to, in his words “Make more per pound on each bird.” When I expressed my horror, this person just laughed and called the public “stupid and dumb when it comes to their food!” This guy was laughing, at everyone’s expense, all the way to the bank! I’m sure that these farmers who are raising their animals without antibiotics are not pumping them full of water just to make a killing on their finished product. They are, in the case of Frank Reese, keeping our heritage breeds alive so they don’t go extinct. I think most people should read Michael Pollan’s excellent book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. It really is a thought provoking novel.

  • federal microbiologist

    Your remarks remind me of those made by Lavinia Hultgren, an ‘old school’ Ohio production animal veterinarian, who was interviewed by the ‘CityBeat’ paper in July 2011, in regard to the airing of the undercover video footage made at Iowa Select Farm’s Kamrar operation.
    Hultgren declares that piglets aren’t pained by castration because “….the nervous system develops from the front of the pig to the back, [and] those signals are not maturely processed.”
    Hultgren’s remarks, and your remarks about withholding antibacterial ointments, bandages, and anesthetic when castrating piglets, represent the primitive, 19th century mindset that is (unfortunately) extremely common among Production Medicine Veterinarians.
    Almost to a man / woman, production medicine vets insist that they, and they alone, have the accumulated wisdom to dictate management practices in CAFOs / IFAP. And if the management practices that they dictate just happen to be the management practices endorsed by the CAFO owners, well..…that’s just fine n’ dandy.
    Unfortunately for production medicine vets, more and more people outside that discipline are becoming increasing skeptical, if not openly dismissive, of production medicine practitioners.
    The people in the public health and environmental quality realms, in particular, are increasingly reluctant to allow production medicine vets to have any meaningful input into framing and forming policies dealing with animal welfare, food safety, and environmental health standards.
    I can understand the attitude of the public health enterprise. After all, look at the debacle that took place in North Carolina last December:
    After a ‘Mercy for Animals’ undercover operative told state authorities that turkeys at a Butterball CAFO in Shannon were being subjected to inhumane treatment, the Hoke County Sheriff’s office raided the Butterball plant on December 29, 2011.
    What the Sheriff’s office didn’t know, was that six days before the raid, Sarah Jean Mason, the DVM in charge of animal health programs in the state’s Poultry Division, had called Butterball’s production medicine vet, Eric Gonder, to warn him about the upcoming raid.
    Gonder in turn alerted the Butterball plant in Shannon.
    Despite advance warning they were going to be investigated by the Hoke County Sheriff’s office, the Butterball plant was nonetheless so squalid, and so ineptly managed, that some turkeys were euthanized by veterinarians participating in the raid team.
    Mason’s duplicity was eventually discovered, and in February of this year she was sentenced to a year of probation and docked two week’s salary. Several Butterball workers were arrested on charges of animal cruelty; at least four were fired.
    Why on earth should public health scientists and practitioners take production animal veterinarians seriously, when vets like Sarah Mason and Eric Gonder represent the status quo for members of that discipline ?
    It’s time for production animal medicine to join the 21st century. It’s time for production animal veterinarians to adopt modern, scientifically sound, approaches to their discipline, even if so doing conflicts with the expectations of their clients in IFAP.

  • oldcowdoc

    Yes, we shuld dismiss those who are trained and experienced in the filed, and listen agenda driven emotianal responses. If you would read the post, I did not say piglets do not feel pain, but that your proposed solution wikll only increase the stress on the snimals, not diminish it, and likely cause additonal death. Also, I routinely use anesthetics and pain relief where id is indicated. Please do not attempt to judge me when you are clearly inifnormed. I stand by my statement that castration dos not increase the need for antibiotics later in life. Pardon, you lack of knowledge is showing. Thank you for proving my point.

  • rts

    We still haven’t been told how much this fancy fare costs per pound. Too embarrassing? Should we be sitting down?

  • Second-career RVT

    These comments about “How much does this “fancy fare” cost per pound” are just pathetic. Seriously? Your concern is more about how much more a humanely raised animal costs than a tortured one? Here’s your answer: if you have to ask that, you should either rid yourself of your extraneous lifestyle products (Starbucks coffee, cell phone, cable tv, high-end shoes, hair-care products….the list goes on and on) in order to eat the same amount of poultry that is raised humanely, or you should just eat less of it.
    Life is full of ethical choices. Choosing to eat tortured animals because they cost a little less is an example of one of them.
    As for Drs. Mason and Gonder, they bring shame to the veterinary profession. One can only hope that Karma will get them in the end. Some day I hope to meet a veterinarian in the food/agricultural industry who still has compassion for animals, and advocates for them. Unfortunately, I believe that industry self-selects.