Sick Stuff: Kristof Talks Antibiotics and Farming

Russ KremerSpeaking of Fresh, one of the film's most interesting and affecting stories involves Russ Kremer, a pig farmer in Missouri. For years, he ran a commercial pork operation, which meant daily doses of antibiotics for all his animals. One day he was injured by a hog, and nearly died from an antibiotic-resistant infection he had helped cultivate. This incident was a game-changer for Kremer—he realized that he was not only putting his health at risk, but the health of his friends, neighbors and family. He transformed his farm, and eventually founded the Ozark Mountain Pork Coop, an alliance of sustainable pork producers. 

Nicholas Kristof's column in Sunday's New York Times addresses the threat posed by commercial agriculture's overuse of antibiotics:

A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that in the United States, 70 percent of antibiotics are used to feed healthy livestock, with 14 percent more used to treat sick livestock. Only about 16 percent are used to treat humans and their pets, the study found.

More antibiotics are fed to livestock in North Carolina alone than are given to humans in the entire United States, according to the peer-reviewed Medical Clinics of North America. It concluded that antibiotics in livestock feed were “a major component” in the rise of antibiotic resistance.

This is yet another reason why factory farming is leading us down an unhealthy path. Few people are talking about the issue, and agribusiness wields tremendous clout in our government.

Legislation introduced by Louise Slaughter, a New Yorker who is the only microbiologist in the House of Representatives, would curb the routine use of antibiotics in farming. The bill has 104 co-sponsors, but agribusiness interests have blocked it in committee — and the Obama administration and the Senate have dodged the issue.

Hopefully Kristof will continue to hammer home the terrifying ramifications of antibiotic use in livestock. It's gotta stop.