On behalf of America’s farmers and ranchers, veterinarians, animal health companies, feed companies and others involved in producing safe and affordable meat, milk, poultry and eggs, we at the Animal Ag Alliance are disappointed that William D. Cohan, in his May 25 opinion article “Antibiotics in meat could be damaging our guts,” chose to make assertions about the safety of meat that have no basis in fact and to undeservedly disparage the integrity of America’s veterinarians and farmers.

Mr. Cohan and New York Times readers may be surprised to know that veterinarians take a professional oath to protect not only animal health but also public health. With the changes put into place by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 2017, veterinarians are even more involved in decisions about the use of medically important antibiotic medicines for therapeutic purposes in animals to protect animal and human health, to assure the safety of the food supply, and to help reduce the risk of resistance.  They are committed to the responsible use of antibiotics.  To assert that veterinarians would risk their license to do otherwise represents an unsubstantiated opinion.

In the beef industry, cattlemen and women consult with veterinarians to develop a health program for cattle designed to keep the herd healthy and protect the future use of antibiotics for human and animal health. The future effectiveness of antibiotics is just as important to cattlemen and women as it is to consumers. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “Producer Guidelines for Judicious Use of Antimicrobials,” which specifically outlines the appropriate use of these products, has been in place since 1987 and is continually updated. These guidelines include preventing problems by ensuring appropriate husbandry and hygiene, routine health examinations and vaccinations; when needed, selecting and using antibiotics carefully with the consultation of a veterinarian; and more.

Mr. Cohan also uses the term “antibiotic-laced meat,” despite the fact there are extensive and effective measures in place to ensure meat and poultry are free of antibiotic residues. When livestock or poultry are given antibiotics to treat an illness, farmers and ranchers must adhere to a specific withdrawal period (determined by the FDA) to ensure enough time has passed for the antibiotic to leave the animal’s system before meat or milk can enter the food supply. USDA Food Safety residue testing data shows that consumers can feel confident that these withdrawal periods are followed and effective, as virtually all meat tested shows no antibiotic residues.

America’s farmers, ranchers and veterinarians have an ethical obligation to care for their animals and they take that responsibility seriously. Animal welfare includes proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care and humane handling. Medicines, including antibiotics, are important tools for veterinarians dedicated to protecting animal health and preventing suffering from disease – arbitrarily removing these medicines can lead to pain and suffering.

Antibiotic resistance is a critically important topic that deserves further conversation, but that discussion is undermined by unsubstantiated opinions like Mr. Cohan’s. While activist groups and others continue to elicit fear and spread misinformation regarding antibiotic use, the animal agriculture community strives to find solutions by working with groups that have a vested interest in providing the best animal care possible to farm animals while providing safe, nutritious food to the public. We invite you to contact us or any of our members if you have questions about antibiotic use in livestock.

Category: Alliance Outreach and Projects

Tag: Antibiotic Use,