Keeping babies healthy, responsibly

As a parent, I do everything in my power to make sure that my children are happy, healthy and safe. No matter how old my daughters get, they will always be my babies, even when they have babies of their own.

As we all know, babies, children, teens, young adults and adults get sick from time to time, and the logical line of defense to aid their recovery is to take them to the doctor. From there, the professional expertise of the doctor is relied upon to plan the mode of attack of the illness that has invaded our loved one’s body. Often, the mode of action of choice is the administration of antibiotics. A regiment of antibiotics for seven to 10 days usually knocks the impending bug out of the body’s system, and the road to recovery is under way.

Hog producers practice the same approach when taking care of their “babies” – the pigs of all ages within their barns. Antibiotic use in food-producing animals is being scrutinized with concern over how those antibiotics affect the end product of meat on consumers’ plates. Consumer Reports on Wednesday published what the National Pork Producers Council labels a “very misleading article on antibiotics use in food-animal production.”

The NPPC reacted to the CR report with a statement saying: “pork farmers do not use antibiotics indiscriminately. Furthermore, there is no conclusive scientific evidence linking antibiotics use in food-animal production with antibiotic treatment failures in people. Numerous peer-reviewed risk assessments, including at least one from FDA, have shown a ‘negligible’ risk to human health of antibiotics use in livestock and poultry production. At best, the science on antibiotic resistance is incomplete, and a recent CDC report on the subject focused on overuse of antibiotics in human medicine, mentioning animal use of antibiotics only six times in its 113 pages.”

As parents know when caring for their ill children, antibiotic use needs to be regulated and monitored, and hog producers realize the same. Antibiotics are an added expense for producers, and they eat at the producer’s bottom line of profitability. Unhealthy animals also erode profitability.

Large retail food chains are paying attention to the antibiotic-use, taking strong stands of not accepting end product (meat) from animals that have been treated with antibiotics. That policy may sound good on the surface, and may smooth over the consumer's fears, but the total elimination of antibiotics from the hog producer's tool box is irresponsible. As the NPPC goes on to say in its statement: “calls for food-animal farmers to stop using antibiotics to prevent diseases are ill-advised and wrong. Denying pigs, cows and chickens necessary antibiotics would be unethical and immoral, leading to animal suffering and possibly death, and could compromise the nation’s food system.”

Caving to public pressure, Subway Restaurants announced in late-October that they would stop serving chicken in 2016 that had been raised with the use of antibiotics, and similarly raised beef and pork would be discontinued by 2025. A few days later, with the help of the livestock industry, Subway saw the err of its ways and backpedaled to allow antibiotics to be used in their supply chain to aid ill animals.

As seen in a gallery also on the National Hog Farmer website, “Healthy pigs yield safe pork.” Just as a loving parents do, hog producers will do all within in their means to take the best care of their “babies.” But, contrary to what the general public is lead to believe, producers are doing this responsibly.

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