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March 27, 2009 

Missouri Chef and Farmer Team Up to Offer Food Raised Without Antibiotics

Community supported agriculture programs offer consumers smarter meat options

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) today published the fifth installment of "Green Cuisine," a recurring Web feature highlighting chefs and farmers who are teaming up to produce food that is good for people and the planet. This time UCS speaks with Missouri hog farmer Russ Kremer, who switched to raising his animals without antibiotics after he nearly died from an antibiotic-resistant infection originating from his hogs. UCS also talks with KT and Andy Ayers, owners of Riddles Penultimate Café in St. Louis, which serves Kremer's antibiotic-free pork.

With Easter—and Easter ham dinners—around the corner, this topic is extremely timely. Just last week, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), a microbiologist, introduced a bill that would curtail the overuse of antibiotics in food animal production and help protect the efficacy of the small number of lifesaving antibiotics. The bill was also introduced in the  Senate the same day, co-sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). (For the senate bill go here.) Hundreds of groups, including the American Medical Association, have endorsed Rep. Slaughter's Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.

Some journalists have been paying attention, too. Two recent columns by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, for example, addressed the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture. As Kristof noted in his March 15 column, "Pathogens in Our Pork," UCS estimates that animal agriculture accounts for 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States. (For Kristof's March 12 column, "Our Pigs, Our Food, Our Health," click here.)

When continually exposed to antibiotics, bacteria develop resistance to the drugs. Regular use of antibiotics in animal feed in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) turn these massive, overcrowded facilities into prime breeding grounds for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can be passed to farmers, their families, their neighbors and consumers through air, water, and even contaminated meat. When people get sick from these "superbugs," antibiotics are less effective.

For families looking for smarter, healthier choices, meat-focused community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs) offer year-round access to meat and eggs produced by local farmers who are not part of the CAFO system. Along with more familiar vegetable CSAs, these new meat CSAs are cropping up all around the country, and spring is the time to sign up. UCS's meat CSA fact sheet has more information on these programs, their benefits, and how to sign up.

UCS Senior Analyst Karen Perry Stillerman, an expert on food policy and alternatives to industrial agriculture, is available for interviews on sustainable food choices, the merits of eating locally, and Rep. Slaughter's new bill to keep antibiotics working.

 

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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