Congressional briefing by meat industry provides no new information

The Meat Industry* hosted a Congressional briefing on Tuesday (2/23/2010) in Washington D.C. on antibiotics in livestock and poultry production. The purpose of the briefing was to uncover, in the moderator’s words, the ‘true science’ on antibiotics. Contrary to his assertion, there was very little science presented.

Instead, the briefing featured anecdotes from two veterinarians (Dr. Craig Rowles and Dr. Leon Weaver) who each spoke on how they responsibly manage their own farms. I’m curious as to how representative this is of most farms. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a live-in veterinarian on every farm to diagnose diseases and prescribe medication on a day-to-day basis? Rowles admitted that typically veterinarians visit swine farms only once a month.

A third speaker (Dr. Timothy Cummings) who focused on poultry provided no scientific findings that supported his anecdotal recollections of flock health management with antibiotics in feed – I found this surprising, given his affiliation with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State University. It would be reasonable to assume that he would have some interesting published data on antibiotics use in poultry to share.

The final speaker was a DVM/PhD researcher from West Texas A&M University (Dr. Guy Loneragan) who discussed antibiotic use in beef cattle. This was the first speaker to engage the audience with any sort of science, though his slides with data were not cited.  I appreciate Loneragan responding to my email with three citations for his slides.  His characterization of the science behind antimicrobial resistance as a black-and-white issue was misleading and polarizing, though I did appreciate his discussion of a risk benefit approach that implicitly acknowledged that there were risks to using antibiotics. Read More >

Thank you, soil.

As we give thanks for sustenance this holiday season, we might tip our hats to the life-supporting organisms living beneath our feet.  Virtually all that we eat, from tofurkey to turkey, originates on fertile soil.  From a consumer’s point of view, the story of a roasted bird begins at the supermarket, but the first chapter in every animal’s life is one of grass and grain converted to flesh.  Fish, too, depend on a delicate food web that begins with land-based nutrients from the soil.  Even the word human originates from the Latin humus (“earth”), the moist, loamy, earthy-smelling black matter from which life springs.

CLF Happy Holidays

As a testament to the soil food web, this year's holiday card features festive dung beetles, protozoa, bacteria and (of course) earthworms.

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