The ongoing debate over the use of antibiotics in agriculture got a bit of fuel on Thursday. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Mike Apley of Kansas State University, Lance Price of George Washington University and Stephen McDonnell, CEO of Applegate – a leading producer of organic meats – were all featured on the popular syndicated radio show On Point to share their views on the matter.
The hour long segment, broadcast in 22 major media markets, asked “Are Antibiotics in Our Meat Breeding Superbugs?”
“If ever there was a miracle drug, a medicine that changed our lives, it is the antibiotic,” said host Tom Ashbrook in the intro to the segment. “Precious stuff, right? “Husband it! Use with care! So you’d think.”
“But 80 percentof all the antibiotics we pump out these days… goes into animals and animal feed. Cows, hogs, chickens, turkeys and more across America, chowing down daily on antibiotics in their feed. To make them grow faster. To allow them to live in crowded conditions,” continued Ashbrook. “Health officials are clanging the alarm bell, saying that is overuse that is breeding antibiotic-resistant superbugs that we can’t stop. That kill. The meat industry says, ‘chill out.’”
There are “more wrinkles in the complex story — that goes from pharmaceutical companies to the barn to the grocery store to homes and hospitals — than we could get to,” said the On Point producers. “There were some great callers who never made it on to the air, and our guests had more great points to make than they could get to.”
You can listen to the show here.
“Studies have shown people would be willing to pay five cents more a pound to get rid of [antibiotics in animal feed],” said Rep. Slaughter on the show. “We have to get rid of that! Look, what’s the option? We just go ahead and let all antibiotics [become] unusable? That we could reach a point where strep throat could be a fatal disease? Do we want to go to that?… We are destroying one of the greatest medical breakthroughs that we are enjoying the benefit from. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Professor Apley countered Slaughter’s perspective.
“It’s hard to be in this conversation sometimes and trying to set facts and figures straight without seeming like you’re trying to deny,” he said. Apley pointed out that the oft-used 80 percent figure includes companion animal antibiotics.
“I disagree on Congresswoman Slaughter,” he said. “I don’t know anyone whose going to fight that. I think we’re going to stop seeing antibiotics for growth promotion.”
“Now we’re really going to be talking about prevention and control uses.”