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Hospitals Shun Factory Farm Meat

Food laced with antibiotics dangerous to humans

Two weeks ago, we reported that the Food and Drug Administration is once again trying to limit the use of antibiotics at factory farms.

But hospitals aren’t waiting. Meat from factory farms is so dangerous, many of them say, that they’re simply pulling it from the menu.

How you’re becoming resistant to antibiotics

Antibiotics are pumped into cows and pigs and chickens for two reasons. One: the conditions at these facilities, and the quality of the food, is so appallingly bad, that the animals have to be loaded up with antibiotics just to keep them alive. And two: a side effect of the antibiotics is that it causes the animals to grow faster and bigger.

Of course, when we humans eat these animals, we ingest all these drugs, too. And one alarming effect of this is that these constant small doses of antibiotics are making dangerous bacteria increasingly resistant to antibiotics when we really need them.

Doctors and scientists are warning that the use of antibiotics in animals is one of the causes of the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” So hospitals around the country are not waiting for the factory farms to act; they’re beginning to pull meat from antibiotic-treated animals such as cows, chickens and pigs off the menu.

Hospitals leading campaign

Estimates are that up to 300 hospitals have joined what they’re also treating as a campaign to influence factory farms. After all, hospitals spend about $9.6 billion on food and drinks a year, according to the Association for Healthcare Foodservice. And by purchasing antibiotic-free meat they hope to discourage the use of antibiotics in agriculture.

For its part, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that antibiotic-resistant infections kill about 60,000 Americans each year.

The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that about 70 percent of all antibiotics given to healthy animals are used to speed growth and accommodate for animals’ crowded living conditions. Some of these drugs used on cattle and other animals, like penicillin and tetracycline, are also used to treat sick patients at hospitals.

This topic is discussed in greater detail in a major article in the Chicago Tribune. Chicago’s Swedish Covenant Hospital has been serving antibiotic-free beef for nearly five years now. Another hospital cited in the Tribune article is Fletcher Allen Health Care in Vermont, where director of nutrition Diane Imrie serves antibiotic-free meat in hopes with a view to making the hospital’s food local, seasonal and sustainable.

More facts and figures about antibiotics at factory farms can be found at Mindfully.org. And what you can do to protect yourself at The Daily Green.