Antibiotic resistance is now recognized as a major threat to public health. Nevertheless, animals in factory farms are given doses of antibiotics — both to keep them alive in stressful, unsanitary conditions, and to make them grow faster.
According to a 2009 report by the FDA, factory farms used 29 million pounds of antibioticsin that year alone. Compare this to the 6 million pounds of antibiotics that are used for every man, woman and child in the US combined.
The image to the right comes from an article in the New England Journal Of Medicine on the need to eliminate antibiotics from farm animals. The blue section represents that amount of antibiotics given to livestock, while the red section shows human use.
( http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1311479 )
So if you’re eating supermarket and deli meats that are not organic, it’s logical to assume you are getting antibiotic residues at the same time. The government is finally asking meat producers to stop using antibiotics, but it’s strictly voluntary.
This negligent practice is largely responsible for the potent strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria we are seeing today. The widespread use of antibiotics in farm animals leads to new strains, such as the now-widespread form of staph (MRSA) known as ST398.