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Posted: March 7 2011

Ag antibiotic use: Risky — but also sloppy and wasteful by Maryn McKenna

So, antibiotics. Given to farm animals. (Yeah, that again.) How does that work, anyway? Pills? Injections? Daily massage with specially compounded creams?
Not quite. Farm animals overwhelmingly get antibiotics in their feed. (You knew that.) And a new paper in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives explains what a bad idea that is: Animals that are given “free choice medicated feeds” (FCMF, in the jargon) can overdose or under-dose themselves, leading not only to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria but to the accumulation of antibiotic residues in their flesh that can persist past slaughter.
There are two issues hidden in this. The first is the practice of giving tiny doses of antibiotics as “growth promoters,”  a use that dates back to the late 1940s. Despite a fair amount of study, there are still competing explanations for how this actually works, but the results are clear: Give animals micro-doses of antibiotics, and they put on weight faster, meaning they get to market size and can be sold — and replaced by another batch to whom the same thing happens — more quickly than if the drugs were not being used. The second is using treatment-sized doses in feed to take care of any illnesses among animals, as well as to protect animals who might pick up those illnesses in the close quarters of confinement agriculture.
Read the rest of the article here.
red hook, new york