Earth-friendly, healthy recipes from top chefs and local farmers
Many consumers are demanding pork and other animal products raised without antibiotics. In the latest installment of Green Cuisine, Missouri hog farmer and Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative president Russ Kremer tells UCS how he keeps his pigs healthy without using expensive medications that can create resistant bacteria. UCS also talks with Andy Ayers and his daughter KT, whose family-run restaurant has been serving up fresh, locally grown foods to St. Louis residents for decades. KT, head chef of Riddles Penultimate Café, shares a recipe that features juicy, flavorful pork raised without antibiotics.
"Compared with my old CAFO system, integrated farming is better for the environment, the community, and for me. And with very little smell from my pigs, I get along better with my neighbors, too!"
-Farmer Russ Kremer
Bugs, Drugs, and Pigs: "Killer" Bacteria Found in Midwest Hog CAFOs
Since his painful personal experience with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, Missouri hog farmer Russ Kremer has led the way in producing and marketing quality pork from without using unnecessary antibiotics. Many small and mid-size livestock and poultry producers across the country are employing similar methods to keep their animals healthy. But most large-scale producers are not. In fact, an estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics and related drugs used in the United States are used as feed additives for chickens, hogs, and beef cattle. Antibiotic feed additives are used without a prescription to help animals grow slightly faster – and to compensate for crowded, often unsanitary conditions in very large CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). This outdated practice is putting at risk the public’s health and the antibiotics doctors need to treat their patients.
A Growing Resistance Threat
Recently, new evidence has suggested a link between antibiotic use in animal agriculture and rising rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. Once primarily a hospital risk, MRSA increasingly occurs in healthy people in community settings. A 2007 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that U.S. deaths from MRSA in 2005 exceeded those from HIV/AIDS that year. Over the past several years, studies examining livestock and retail meat samples in Europe and Canada have detected a strain of MRSA (ST398) originating in livestock operations where the use of antibiotics is intense.
Now, a pilot study published by researchers at the University of Iowa has found high prevalence of this same strain of MRSA in 49 percent of swine and 45 percent of swine workers on a CAFO operation with sites scattered in Iowa and Illinois. The study is the first to demonstrate the presence of MRSA ST398 in the United States. This strain causes serious human infections, including skin, wound, breast, and heart infections, as well as pneumonia. In the Netherlands, where MRSA ST398 was previously detected in hog CAFOs, it accounts for one-fourth of all human MRSA cases.
The Iowa study adds to the mounting body of evidence pointing to livestock as "reservoirs" for antibiotic resistant strains of MRSA that can be passed to humans. Resistance can be spread to the community in several ways, including human-to-human transmission; consumption and handling of infected meat; and environmental contamination of air, water, and/or soil.
A Solution to Keep Antibiotics Working
Public health advocates have called for testing of U.S. livestock to better understand the linkages between the presence of the resistant strain and the use of penicillin, tetracycline, and other antibiotics in animals raised for food. In addition, legislation has again been introduced in Congress that would require the Food and Drug Administration to take up the review of antibiotics that are important in human medicine to determine whether they also can continue to be used as animal feed additives. The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) would help combat the antibiotic resistance crisis America is currently facing. The American Medical Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and hundreds of health, agriculture and other groups nationwide have joined UCS to endorse this legislation. Click here to tell your member of Congress to support PAMTA!
All images in this installment of Green Cuisine (except where noted in slideshow) courtesy of J. Pollack Photography.