Antibiotic-free meats

While antibiotics are critical to treating diseases in humans and animals, the non-therapeutic use of these drugs on farms and in animals is creating strains of food-borne bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. According to a recent report put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, antibiotic resistance is an inevitable consequence of antibiotic use. The more antibiotics are used the more bacteria will develop resistance.

On “conventional” farms, pigs, chickens and cattle are administered antibiotics in their feed to promote growth and prevent diseases caused by overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. Most of these antibiotics are administered without prescriptions or veterinary oversight. More than 80 percent of the antibiotics in the United States are used on farm animals, and 65 percent of those are similar or identical to the medicines given to humans. This creates a situation where the antibiotics that are present in the animals become less effective in treating illness in humans.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to the conventional meat products that contain antibiotics.

One example is Beeler’s Pork, which is a family-owned hog farm committed to animal welfare and responsible farming methods. The hogs are raised in animal-friendly surroundings without the use of any type of antibiotics or growth promotants. They have fresh deep straw bedding, clean water and ample space to move. They’re fed a 100% vegetarian diet, supplemented with vitamins, minerals and probiotics to increase immunity, and the feed is frequently tested to make sure it is free of chemical residues.

Another such company that is doing it differently is Tecumseh Poultry, makers of Smart Chicken. Founded in 1998, Tecumseh positioned itself as an alternative to the five large corporations that controlled virtually all the chicken that was raised in the United States. In doing so, they became one of the first, and remain one of the few, broiler companies to completely eliminate the use of antibiotics. In the event of sickness, their chickens are treated with antibiotics, but then that chicken is removed from the program, never to be sold as Smart Chicken.

Information on their website notes, “We have found that the need for antibiotics can be virtually eliminated with the appropriate care and handling of the chickens and the facilities. The effect of indiscriminate use of antibiotics in livestock production in this country is remarkable. Dosages and variations keep increasing, as organisms develop resistance and as new strains emerge. The effect of this use of antibiotics on human pathogens may be debatable, but the effect on pathogens affecting chickens is not. With proper care and patience, chickens simply do not need to be drugged from egg to shelf in order to thrive.

Another major difference with Smart Chickens is the way they are processed. Virtually every chicken processor in the country uses a “water immersion” method to chill the chickens after they’re slaughtered. At Smart Chicken, they chill the chickens with cold air rather than immersing them in a cold water bath. Not only do the Smart Chickens not absorb a bunch of water in the process, they also don’t touch, or soak in the same water as, other chickens, thus eliminating cross contamination.

Beeler’s Pork products and Tecumseh Smart Chicken can be found at New Frontiers Natural Marketplace in Solvang, Calif.