This is not by any means the first time I’ve written to you about the problem of antibiotic resistance—nor is it the first time I’ve highlighted factory farming’s role in the growing disaster. But it may be the most shudder-worthy time.
I just finishing reading a study published in the January issue of the journal BMC Microbiology, that frankly made my skin crawl.
But first let me back up a bit and set the gruesome stage.
Dosing up livestock on antibiotics leads to superbugs
It’s a common practice on commercial pig farms to shoot up the livestock with antibiotics to
(a) fight the diseases that run rampant in the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions under which the pigs are forced to live and
(b) to promote faster weight gain.
This practice has helped fuel the birth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria…so called superbugs…that have adapted to resist being killed by multiple antibiotics—thus making them a major threat to human health.
Strains of these bacteria—like the sometimes deadly antibiotic-resistant staph infection known as MRSA that’s routinely found in feedlot pigs and the workers who tend to them—have been popping up and spreading in the general population.
Superbugs are hitching rides on bigger bugs
And it looks as if (a) runoff from factory farms and (b) the contaminated meats already on our grocery-store shelves aren’t the only paths these superbugs are taking into a neighborhood near you. According to new research from Kansas State University and North Carolina State University, these bugs may be literally hitching rides on…well…bugs.
As anyone who has had the displeasure of traveling anywhere close to a factory farm knows they are teaming with flying and crawling six-legged pests drawn to the massive amounts of manure the farms produce.
And according to researchers who conducted this study 90 percent of the roaches and flies they gathered from the areas around commercial hog farms were carriers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that had resistance to at least one—and often more than one—common antibiotic.
Yup, that’s right; it looks like antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be creeping, crawling, and flying its way into our communities and eventually our homes in the form of common household pests…shudder.
In the words of researcher Dr. Coby Schal, “Pest-management strategies are important…the fly at your picnic or roach scuttling across the living-room floor can be more than just a nuisance.”
(I think that thought is worth just one last shudder.)
Demand a ban on antibiotic abuse on factory farms
So what the heck do we do about it? Well, to start with we can support our representatives in Washington who are calling for a law to ban non-therapeutic use of antibiotics on farms.
And do what you can to avoid supporting the practice of factory farming by choosing to purchase sustainable small-farm-produced grass-fed meats and dairy whenever possible and eating in restaurants that are committed to using local ingredients. To find locally grown, sustainable food in your area, visit www.localharvest.org.
Now I’m sitting here dreading this summer’s fly season as I contemplate the old saying that, “God in His wisdom made the fly and then forgot to tell us why.”