Did you know…eating conventionally farmed meat may expand your waistline?
Need yet another reason to avoid factory-farmed, chemical-laden meat? What if I told you it may be causing you to gain weight?
Since the 1940s, scientists have known small, sustained doses of antibiotics increase “feed efficacy“. In plain speak: the antibiotics cause animals to gain more weight per pound of feed. When factory farms took over U.S. meat production, fortifying feed with antibiotics became standard practice. By 2009, U.S. sales records indicate that 80% of antibiotics are used on livestock.
Fattening the Cow…and Your Calves
Antibiotics are clearly capable of fattening the calves (and cows, pigs, etc.) for slaughter. But do they affect the waistlines of the people who eat the meat that comes from these factory fattened animals? Tom Philpott, co-founder of Maverick Farms and expert on food politics and agriculture, tackled exactly that question.
Philpott interviewed Keeve Nachman, a researcher on antibiotic use in the meat industry at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. However, Nachman says it’s “not an unreasonable suspicion.”
More data is needed to prove definitively that antibiotics in meat could alter the microbiotic environment of your gut and cause you to pack on pounds. Unfortunately, one of the major hurdles to getting that data is that currently, the livestock industry finances most of the applicable research.
A Side of E. Coli, Anyone?
While we await better research in the U.S., we can look to the research conducted in other countries for clues. Researchers from the Department of Veterinary Disease Biology from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre and Department of Microbiology at the University of Cork in Ireland came together to investigate the dangers of using antibiotics on farm animals.
That study, published in August 2012 showed that FDA-approved levels of antibiotics in meat can absolutely affect microorganisms.
They found that even incredibly low levels of antibiotics fed to livestock could kill off good bacteria, allowing the uninhibited spread of pathogens like E. coli. According to the authors, these findings “offer yet another argument for limiting the use of antimicrobials in farm animals.”
Drug-resistant superbugs are becoming more and more common, and these superbugs can often be traced back to factory farms. The University of Copenhagen/University of Cork study is one of the first to link the spread of those bugs to antibiotics in meat.
A horrible potential example of this link would be the salmonella outbreak that forced Cargill to recall 36 million pounds of ground turkey.
Current evidence is convincing enough for food industry expert Tom Philpott to say: “It’s unlikely that drug-laced meat will mess with my gut. I think I’ve lost my appetite.” Until the FDA forces the livestock industry to clean up its act, we may all be saying the same thing.