Antibiotics are an integral component of animal health. All uses of antibiotics improve animal health, and these improvements in animal health can substantially improve human health because healthier animals lead to safer food. All uses of antibiotics also have the potential to increase antibiotic resistance. While all antibiotic uses can select for resistance, the high dose therapeutic uses that are used to treat sick animals may be of the highest concern. The best way to avoid the need for high dose, clinically important antibiotics is to keep the animals healthy in the first place, and low dose antibiotics used for growth promotion and disease prevention can help. While humans eating meat products can be exposed to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, the risk for the average American is negligible given the long chain of events required to produce measurable human health harm.
Just like snopes, our experts sort truth from fiction on all things food.
True? Or Not? "Regular use of antibiotics in healthy cows, pigs and chickens has led to increased antibiotic resistance in humans eating meat products."
True? Or Not? "Small farms and increased consumer purchases of locally-produced food products better for the future of American agriculture and the environment."
Many consumers are nostalgic for the bucolic scenes associated with the small farms of generations past and have embraced farmers markets and other opportunities to buy their food from "local" producers. Consumers might be surprised to find that this approach may not provide the long-term benefits to agriculture or the environment as they believe.
True? Or Not? "Many U.S. farmers would not be able to make a living raising corn and other high-acreage field crops without government subsidies."
Like all businesses, farming is subject to the prevailing market forces that dictate whether production is expanded or contracted based on input and labor costs as well as the existing market opportunities. While farm payments help some farmers navigate tough market conditions in the short-term, farm payments do not necessary effect the long-term viability of producers or the price of food.
True? Or Not? "Food grown and produced in the U.S. is as safe or safer than food grown outside the U.S."
With the increasing number of recalls in the news, many Americans are wondering if their food is safe. There is still a lot of room for improvement but overall, the U.S. food safety system works as well or better than most countries.
Foods produced and processed in the most industrially developed countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia/New Zealand and the European Union (EU) are similar in quality and safety, but food from developing nations varies widely.
The U.S. imports food through approximately 300 ports and from over 150 countries.
The Food and Drug Administration during the month of April 2009 alone rejected more
than 930 import shipments. Keeping everything that might be harmful from entering is
difficult due to the cost and lack of personnel required to police such massive
shipments of food and the time and resources needed to test each shipment - some of
which is highly perishable such as fruits and vegetables.
Despite well-publicized food safety incidents in the U.S., progress is being made on several fronts. Researchers are breaking new ground in understanding pathogens and the origins of foodborne diseases; surveillance methods are improving as genetic techniques allow cases in different geographical areas to be linked to a common food source; and food safety education efforts are continuing.
Even corn-fed beef cattle spend most of their lives eating grass. High-corn diets are only fed in the final finishing phase of production. Whether cattle are raised in pastures or fed corn in feedlots, studies show a similar prevalence of E. coli bacteria.
Regardless of the diet animals are fed, everyone in the food system should employ good food safety practices. This includes processors, retailers and restaurants and consumers who should always follow safe food handling guidelines.
True? Or Not? "The well-being of farm animals on larger operations is disregarded in the pursuit of higher profits."
The question is often asked by critics of modern animal agriculture but the size of the farm is not a reliable indicator of animal welfare. Research shows good animal husbandry has more to do with the people providing the care.
Small and large farms present different challenges, but both require skilled and conscientious management to promote good animal care. While there are fewer animals on a small operation, time spent caring for the animals must be juggled with various tasks. On larger operations, employees are often trained in specialized skills and a larger staff might allow for more personalized animal care.
The reason farms have gotten larger has more to do with maintaining income levels than increasing profits. One study provides this example: In the 1970s an operation producing 2,000 pigs a year would generate a profit of $42,000. In the 1990s the profit from such a farm would have been about $8,000. Taking inflation into account, the size of the farm would have to be roughly ten times larger in the 1990s to result in a similar income.