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Time to Regenerate the Meaning of Sustainable Ag.Dave Carter New Hope Blogs

All Grassed Up and Nowhere to Go?Read Story

Future of Natural and Organic Food Tied to Ag in the MiddleRead Story

Ag Isn't All Sun and FunRead Story

Industrial ag shortchanges consumers and farmers (NewHope360 Blog)Read Story

Next crop of organic farmers needs careful cultivation (NewHope 360 Blog)Read Story

Water: The new carbon (NewHope 360 Blog)Read Story

Patience and persistence win new markets for non-GMO labelRead Story

Approval of non GMO meat label is 'huge win' for industry, consultant saysRead Story

Is Organic Affordable?Read Story

The true cost of unhealthy food: Lessons from meat productionRead Story

The backside of antibiotics in agriculture (February 16, 2010)Back

From naturalfoodsmerchandiser.com February 16, 2010

Katie Couric's report on antibiotics in agriculture will likely spur a new wave of consumers seeking natural meat and poultry. Unfortunately, the labels on many products - even in natural food stores - are giving those customers a bum steer... literally.

One "all natural" brand of chicken in one retail chain, for example, touts that the poultry "contains no antibiotic residues." Wait a second... no residues? Every meat and poultry product in the marketplace today can legally make that claim. The FDA requires that animals receiving antibiotics undergo a specified withdrawal period before going to slaughter so that the meat or poultry contains no antibiotic residues.

The unsuspecting customer purchasing the "all-natural" chicken breast containing "no antibiotic residues" is likely buying a conventionally-raised product.

But, if the FDA requires that all meat and poultry contain no residues, why is there a growing problem of consumers getting sick from antibiotic resistant bugs? That's where Couric missed the back half of this story.

Antibiotics mixed into animal feed take the same path through the digestive system as corn and soybeans. In other words, much of what goes into the animal's mouth comes out the other end.

Environmental Defense in 2005 published a study on the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Researchers in that study calculated that cattle, hogs and chickens in Iowa excrete 1.7 million pounds of antibiotics each year. That is 852 tons of antibiotics deposited into the soil and streams in Iowa alone. The estimation for the top ten conventional livestock states combined is 4,343 tons of antibiotics coming out the backside of conventionally raised farm animals each year and into the water that is used by municipalities, and into the soil used for growing crops.

Legislation pending in Congress would ban non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Don't look for swift passage, despite the recent news coverage. Major pharmaceutical companies and groups like the National Pork Producers Council are determined to derail that legislation.

In the meantime, growing numbers of farmers and ranchers are kicking the drug habit altogether, and are raising animals without using any antibiotics. Those producers struggle to compete for shelf space with the industrial operations marketing conventional products as "all natural" with "no antibiotic residues." Natural retailers shouldn't wait for congressional action. They can help the family farmer, and their shoppers, by insisting that labels in their meat cases live up to their customers' expectations of antibiotic free meat and poultry.

 

Authenticity Matters

Today's customers want to know the facts behind the food they buy. Packaging with pastoral farm images no longer suffices; these customers want to know the people and practices involved in bringing food from the farms to their tables.

An increasingly complex web of governmental regulation and private certification seek to provide customers with that information. This sea of certification protocols and label claims can be overwhelming for manufacturers and customers alike.

Dave Carter of Crystal Springs Consulting, Inc. works with farmers, manufacturers, marketers and federal agencies to cut through the clutter and confusion. Crystal Springs Consulting specializes in:

  • Identifying the production protocols, certification claims and regulatory requirements that will differentiate a product in the marketplace.

  • Assisting companies in "telling the story" behind those protocols.

  • Crystal Springs Consulting is dedicated to restoring customers' faith in the marketplace, and in the products they purchase. Let us help you build profitability by promoting the authenticity of your products.