Exploring the Link Between Antibiotic Use on Farms and Antibiotic Resistance Disease in Humans

Most Purely Poultry customers are small flock owners, raising poultry in the back yard, or on a small family farm. The reasons that people decide to raise poultry are varied, but for the majority the decision is in some way related to food. It could be that you want to be closer to the source of your food, or to teach your child about where food comes from, or, like many, because you don’t like the idea of additives, preservatives and who-knows-what-all that are all too often a part and parcel of industrial food production.

The Atlantic recently featured an article titled Antibiotic Resistance and the Case for Organic Poultry and Meat that outlines how adding antibiotics to meat animals’ feed leads to increased antibiotic resistance in humans – which is a growing medical problem.

The article is long, but takes follows the path from farm yard to hospital clearly and in detail. The author then goes on to describe a recent study that compared antibiotic resistance on five conventional farms with antibiotic resistance on five newly organic-certified farms. All ten farms were of similar size and located in the mid-Atlantic region.

The results of the study are encouraging and show that antibiotic resistant bacteria decrease sharply and immediately on farms where animals are not fed antibiotics. Two studies from Europe, where antibiotics in animal feed have been banned since 1998, support the findings.

While the study addresses meat, we wonder about eggs as well. Certainly, everything a laying hen consumes has some effect on her eggs. The article suggests that consumers take the lead by purchasing organically raised, antibiotic free meat, thereby forcing the industry to change its practices. While that is a worthwhile suggestion, we think that raising backyard poultry makes and even more powerful statement.