Antibiotics; it’s a hot topic these days. And rightfully so. But I’m finding myself continually frustrated with the focus of this conversation and I’m here to hopefully clear a few things up. As level-headed people who are genuinely interested in our own health and the safety of our food, let’s dive into this subject a bit. Around here, we start with science and science has proven that antibiotic resistance is real. Bugs are becoming resistant to the antibiotics we are using both in human health as well as animal health. I’m sure we can all collectively agree that antibiotic resistance is a dangerous subject, for humans and animals. And therefore, it is important we get ahead of the game. But, as is the theme with most of the information I share, let me explain why we don’t need to panic about antibiotics in our food, rather focus on using antibiotics judiciously.
I am of the opinion that there is a three components to simplifying this story. Since we generally know how antibiotics are used in humans, we should understand how they are used in animal agriculture.
How Antibiotic Are Used On Our Ranch
Let’s take pinkeye for example. That’s probably a bacterial infection we’ve all had the distinct pleasure of dealing with at some point in our lives, right? Well, cattle also get pinkeye. In the event that a cow does contract the infection, we bring her in and doctor her with an antibiotic. All antibiotics have very detailed labels that ranchers pay CLOSE attention to. These labels tell us dosage, administration, precautions/safety, and cautions or withdrawal times. These withdrawal times are the amount of time it takes for the antibiotic to leave the animal’s body. For the specific type of antibiotics we use on the Dot Seven, the withdrawal time is typically 28 days. By law, a rancher cannot send an animal that they have treated into the food supply until that withdrawal time has lapsed. If they do, they will be caught at the processing facility for residues, and major consequences will be paid. For example: complete suspension of hauling in cattle to be processed.
The Human Element
It’s no secret that us humans aren’t great at following doctors orders. How many of you have stopped your medication just as you started to feel better instead of completing the full prescription? Or gone to the doctor to ask for an antibiotic when you have a cold? I know I certainly have… before I knew any better. We walk into clinics and hope for a prescription when it’s actually a virus we’re fighting. (And then when the Dr doesn’t prescribe the antibiotic (because it’s a virus) we write nasty yelp reviews. I know you all know the person that does this!) We must do better. Humans are equally responsible.
Let’s Work Together
… and NOT point fingers at each other. As beef producers (and beyond), we obviously care about the health of our animals. We need Rx drugs to properly treat these animals and we want to do our part to keep humans healthy too! Through science, working closely with our veterinarians, and using antibiotics that aren’t medically important to humans I strongly feel we can solve half of the problem.
Also, can we make a pact to be more responsible with the antibiotics we take as well? We have to do better otherwise these tools will be gone forever.
As always, if you have questions about how antibiotics are used in animals, feel free to reach out to me or anyone else who raises the protein you eat. We’re here to help make things more clear and certainly take the fear out of your food. We have nothing to hide and for the sake of the animals, we certainly don’t want to get to a point where we don’t have these tools to use.
Have questions now? Leave them here in the comments below or on social media and I would be glad to help!