Ethical Beef, the Great Debate!

Hey ya’ll,

This week as I started classes once again, I seemed to have a new look on the semester. Instead of being bogged down my multiple papers, test, exams and reading assignments I’ve committed myself to being a better student. In doing so, I have felt more engage and involved with my classes, not because I have to but, because I want to influence others around me with the knowledge I will learn while attending college. Interestingly enough, I decided this semester to take and AG Ethics class. The definition of ethics is a moral norm of an individual or a group and the morality is a person’s beliefs of feelings concerning their values, rules and principles. I know what you’re all thinking right now as you read this: “Arika we all know what ethics are, why are you trying to teach us a lesson in ethics?”  The truth is, ethics is vitally important, especially in the agriculture industry.

My professor decided that we would take part of the class time to discuss any current ethical issues in agriculture. As we all known, one of the most talked about issues is the use of antibiotics on livestock. I personally believe that antibiotics should be used in livestock production because it is essential for the animal’s health as well for the farmer to produce quality product. If you neglect to treat an animal for such illnesses, it can have a negative outcome for the animal as well as the producer.  Many consumers though, believe that it is not ethical to treat animals for diseases via antibiotics due to misconceptions of such drugs.  Antibiotics are also known as antimicrobials that fight bacterial infections. These drugs specifically to the beef industry are to help cattle regain or maintain superior health and produce safe beef.  Antibiotic use should be limited to prevent or control disease and should not be used if the direct intent is to improve performance.  A comment was made by a non-agriculture student in my ethics class that the opposing side would view consuming animals that have taken antibiotics as unhealthy and unsafe to consumers. He believed that animals given antibiotics could be consumed by a consumer, resulting in a harmful effect on the human’s body.

                I can see where my fellow colleague may have concerns about this ethical issue, but there are many misconceptions about antibiotics used in livestock.  Every consumer should know that those animals given antibiotics are receiving the drug first and foremost so that they can have a healthier immune system and produce quality food.  These antibiotics are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to make sure that the antibiotic is not harmful to the animal or to others. In our industry, cattle’s health is crucial and important to producers and the consumers. Everyone loves the taste and I want to tell everyone not to be scared of this delicious product. What there to really worry about? Its BEEF it’s whats for dinner! Many assume that you can consume the antibiotics that cattle have been given during their time on the farm, but this myth is false. Antibiotics only remain in the animals system for such a short time that there is not possible way that consumers can ever be in contact with the drug itself. There are many withdrawal dates prior to slaughter that make sure that an animal no longer has a drug present in its system.

I hope to learn and understand other colleagues here at Penn State as well as other people I come into contact with and try to share the beef story. I must seek to understand, then to be understood and hopefully through this I can reach many more consumers and explain agriculture ethics. Producing safe, wholesome, and nutritious beef for consumption really is the number one goal for cattle farmers and ranchers. Farmers and ranchers would not produce cattle for the public’s consumption that they wouldn’t feed to their own family.  We love AG and we certainly love BEEF! For more information on antibiotic use in cattle please click on this link!

With a Cattle Calling,

Arika Snyder

 

4 Responses to “Ethical Beef, the Great Debate!”

  1. Julio says:

    Arika:

    With all respect, I think you’re missing an important point about antibiotics. Here’s a very recent resource on the topic:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/01/the-failure-of-the-fda-why-were-still-using-antibiotics-on-livestock/251442/

    Kind regards,

    Julio

  2. Arika says:

    Julio,

    I read over the article and I understand where you are coming from. But you must also know from a producer’s stand point we don’t give antibiotics to make up for the care of the animal or produce faster. Antibiotics are given minimally to animals to fight off infections so that our food supply remains healthy by a practicing veterinarian . Are you telling me that you’re okay eating meat that may not ensure to be healthy? From a consumers stand point I want to know that my product was treated when it was suppose to so it reduces the toughness in the meat. Tough part in meat come from stressed out animals which tend to be those suffering illnesses. As cattle producers we want to make sure that the public knows we aren’t forcing antibiotics down animals throats each and every day. We just want to produce a safe wholesome product that comes from healthy cows. We love the environment and we give cattle comfortable living space. The only performance we want to see from our animals is to help animals recover and bring them back to normal health. Just like you are to go to the doctors and receive antibiotics for an illness, does it not make your health better?

    Here is a site that I would like to direct you to:

    http://thecattlecall.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/antibiotic-use-in-livestock/

  3. Julio says:

    Arika:

    Thanks for responding and for including that link.

    I certainly understand *why* antibiotics are used in the current set-up. Unquestionably they allow for greater scale and efficiency. As well, I don’t doubt that they’re given to the animals carelessly.

    Here’s the main point, though: There appears to be a clear danger to their use at these volumes. Antibiotics are losing effectiveness with time and the process is likely being helped by the volume at which they’re used in the beef industry. I haven’t seen anyone effectively argue otherwise.

    Meat was processed in the old days without antibiotics, which are a relatively recent invention. It’s not clear to me that we’ve passed a point of no return regarding their use.

    Could it be that there’s a better way to “bring meat to the table,” cost (an important consideration, obviously) aside?

    Julio

  4. Arika says:

    Yes, I do understand with time antibiotics can those their effectiveness over a time period. But that’s if you are constantly giving an animal a drug month after month day after day. I’m sure that if you ask any farmer they would tell you that its a cost loss situation if they were to just give antibiotics to an animal for performance. It’s costly and these are family farms you are talking about so they don’t have that much money to just give to their cattle each week. But if you look back to how meat was processed or an animals health was back then, you see many diseases that couldn’t be treated and the population who weren’t educated on these diseases. Times are changing and with new technology in veterinarian medicine we hope to achieve better quality in food production in the long run.
    - Thanks for a great debate

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