Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 24

FOOD FIGHT CONFERENCE PLENARY 1 - Finberg & panelists consumer health is the concentrated hog farms, and concentrated animal operations. They pack animals in very tightly and in this country they are very chemically dependent. For example, if you were talking about pork production, when you eat conventional pork, these animals are grown in very, very dense situations. They use antibiotics to control disease among them, but more than that, they use very low-dose antibiotics as growth promoters. The combination of continual low-dose antibiotics and very tight packing produces lots of antibiotic resistant bacteria. So if you get pork at the grocery store, the odds are that about 70 percent for any piece you buy, if you test it, has Yersinia enterocolitica, which is a human pathogen. Enterocolitica is Latin for, basically, “dissolves your intestinal lining.” [Laughter] It’s really not very good for you. And about seven out of ten pieces that you buy are like that. And it’s worse if it’s ground meat because in ground meat, any bacteria on the surface they grind all the way through it, and it’s harder to kill that internal bacteria when you cook it. In this country, the pigs have also been raised probably with ractopamine, which is a drug to make the meat leaner. It is, however, a beta-adrenergic synapse blocker. It’s a medicine. You use it to relax seized muscles. We do a great deal here with antibiotics. Seventy percent of antibiotics used in the United States are used on animals, and a lot of that is growth promoters. That produces a lot of the antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that are a problem these days. Talking about beef in addition to pork, in beef there are other problems including the use of implanted steroid growth hormones. In the United States, we consume beef grown with steroid growth hormones that are banned in most of the rest of the developed world. Those things really can have a significant impact on health, and many countries have abandoned these hormones especially along with the nontherapeutic antibiotics. Denmark has started to see a lot less human cases of antibiotic resistant bacteria because they have developed processes for pig production that eliminated the use of nontherapeutic antibiotics. BHG: What would happen to the meat if those antibiotics were not used? Essentially why are they used? What happened in Denmark? Did prices go up? Or were animals smaller or the meat tougher? SK: Certainly Americans pay less for food than anyone in the world. When you talk about the dark side of this industrial production, the other side is that we pay less than anyone. Prices would go up. Would the meat be tougher? No, I don’t think it would be tougher. Would the animals be smaller? No, but it would take them longer to grow to the size that they were going to slaughter them at. And so the prices go up. The prevalence of antibiotic resistance would go down. And whether that would make an impact on you personally would just depend on where you are in the economic spectrum. 21