Farmer's take

This is antibiotic-free, right?

By CHELSEA HILL
Posted 4/19/22

As we are ready to start planting our gardens for the year, cows are calving, does are kidding, and spring is literally in the air.

More customers are coming out to buy local products, and along …

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Farmer's take

This is antibiotic-free, right?

Posted

As we are ready to start planting our gardens for the year, cows are calving, does are kidding, and spring is literally in the air.

More customers are coming out to buy local products, and along with that comes conversations to educate customers. I think it’s a great thing to see many more folks becoming concerned about where and how their food is grown or produced.

One of the many common questions that we get for dairy and meat products is “This is antibiotic-free, right?”

 As a responsible ag producer, sometimes this question can hit you wrong. We work so hard to follow all the best-production practices to make the highest quality and the safest food in the world. However, consumers don’t realize this, and after you take a deep breath, it’s important to explain that, just like when humans need medication, there is a proper dosage, administration route, and especially a withdrawal period (length of time that products from a treated animal would have any residual effects of the medication taken that make it inedible) that must be followed for using a product. Not only is inadvisable to go outside of these parameters, but in many cases, it could be illegal to do so without the guidance of a veterinarian.

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics or any other medication can not only adversely affect the animal being treated, but it can also hurt our industry in the future, because it may eventually lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

In fact, in 2015 the Food and Drug Administration created the Veterinary Feed Directive, which abolished the use of medically important antibiotics in feed and water for livestock for production purposes, and put into place a strict standard of use as therapeutic treatments for animals.

Medically important antibiotics are used in humans as well as animals. And antibiotics were used in production to enhance growth and efficiency.

Now, if any of these antibiotics are required to treat sick animals or prevent illnesses, the farmer must get a written script (like a prescription) directly from a veterinarian. All of these requirements make sure that we have a safe food supply.

Another point to know is that for many products, such as milk, each processed batch is tested once at a minimum for antibiotic residuals. If there are any traces of antibiotics in milk, the entire tanker load is disposed of and the farmer that caused the loss is charged.

A tanker usually consists of thousands of pounds of milk from many different farms, so the charge is quite significant. With the very low profits—if any—that dairy farmers make, no farmer would willingly allow this to happen, not only from an ethical standpoint, but there would also be a great financial loss if they did.

I’m not saying that there won’t be slip-ups or there aren’t unethical people out there, but in general the percentage of those cases vs. the whole are minuscule.

It’s this Farmer’s Take that we are blessed to live in a country that has food safety as a top priority. Still not sure about the story of the food you’re eating? Ask the farmer who raised it. I know they would be glad to tell you all about their production practices.

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