Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Antibiotic feed additives

Adding antibiotics to animal feed started about 70 years ago when it was discovered that including this in the diets of simple-stomached animals, like pigs and poultry, increased their growth. At the time it was hailed as a real breakthrough in farming technology and over the next fifty years, the inclusion of antibiotics as feed additives in commercial pig and poultry production became virtually universal.
This not only enhanced performance by increasing growth but also improved feed efficiency, altered intestinal bacteria and reduced incidence of disease in factory type farming conditions. Post-weaning diarrhoea and mortality was curbed drastically and piglets took about 5 days less to reach a live weight of 25 kg. Obviously this was all good for the bottom line and initially it was easy for everyone to ignore those who warned that regular feeding with growth promoting antibiotics would lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria, germs and viruses developing in both animals and also in humans. 
But people can’t be fooled forever, and as evidence of this mounted it became more and more apparent that when pigs are fed low levels of antibiotics for extended periods of time, their intestinal bacteria becomes resistant to the antibiotics used. Then when they are slaughtered these resistant bacteria can enter the human food chain and cause illness in humans. These infections have also become more difficult to treat with antibiotics which are similar to those that were fed to the pigs in the first place. And so the vicious circle has spiralled and who knows where it will end.
In light of these concerns, many countries have decided that the risks are unacceptable to their public, and have placed heavy restrictions on or even banned the use of some of the antimicrobials assessed to pose a risk to human health. Some are taking an even more proactive stance and pressing for a comprehensive and complete ban.
Fortunately you don’t need to sit around waiting for this to happen. You have the choice of taking responsibility for your own good health and that of your family’s right now. All you need to do is only eat free range pork and pork products. There are a few morally responsible small producers who are prepared to look beyond the quick buck and who have made a conscious decision to adopt the correct combination of nutrition, housing and husbandry. They’ve delayed weaning, improved sanitation and general living conditions and are rearing and finishing their piglets very happily, without the use of any antibiotics what so ever..
Surely it makes all the sense in the world to support them and those of us who only use their pork and poultry in the production of our products.    
I’m out to cure the world.                                                                                                      
You can find me at the Constantia Waldorf’s Organic & Biodynamic Produce Market from 11am to 3pm every Friday during term time and at the Earth Fair Market, South Palms, 333 Main Road, Tokai every Saturday morning. But if this doesn’t fit in with your schedule email me at or call me on 072 240 8511 and I’ll deliver to you personally.

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