Breeding Bacteria On Factory Farms

Mark Bittman | New York Times | July 9, 2013

The story of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in farm animals is not a simple one. But here’s the pitch version: Yet another study has reinforced the idea that keeping animals in confinement and feeding them antibiotics prophylactically breeds varieties of bacteria that cause disease in humans, disease that may not readily be treated by antibiotics. Since some of these bacteria can be fatal, that’s a scary combination.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are bad enough, but now there are more kinds; they’re better at warding off attack by antibiotics; and they can be transferred to humans by increasingly varied methods. The situation is demonstrably dire.

Two of the examples highlighted in a Food and Drug Administration report are that about 10 percent of all chicken breasts sold at retail are contaminated with a form of salmonella that’s resistant to at least one antibiotic, and nearly half of all chicken that’s sold is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant campylobacter. Some of the antibiotics in question are used to treat sick people but are also used daily in raising livestock. And it seems that these livestock, especially ones raised by contemporary industrial means, are a breeding ground for making these and other bacteria more resistant [1] .