U.S. Livestock Consume 5 Times as Many Antibiotics as UK Animals

U.S. Livestock Consume 5 Times as Many Antibiotics as UK Animals
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U.S.-raised livestock animals ingest five times the amount of antibiotics as animals raised in the UK, new research finds, with some instances in cattle as much as sixteen-times higher than UK rates.

Chickens ingest three times the antibiotics in the U.S. versus UK, and the rates were double in both pigs and turkeys, the research conducted by the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, a UK pressure group, found.

The group looked at data made available through the government and industry trade groups.

“The contrast between rates of dosage in the US and the UK throws a new light on negotiations on Brexit, under which politicians are seeking to negotiate trade deals for the UK independently of the EU,” reports the Guardian. “Agriculture and food are key areas, particularly in trading with the US, which as part of any deal may insist on opening up the UK markets to imports that would be banned under EU rules.”

The World Health Organization has repeatedly urged global livestock producers to decrease the amount of “last resort” antibiotics used in animal production, citing a “post-antibiotic era” that could lead to millions of untreatable infections.

The European Union currently has a ban on all imports of U.S. beef because of the rampant use of growth hormones.

“US cattle farmers are massively overusing antibiotics,” Suzi Shingler, of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, said. “This finding shows the huge advantages of British beef, which is often from grass-reared animals, whereas US cattle are usually finished in intensive feedlots. Trade negotiators who may be tempted to lift the ban on US beef should not only be considering the impact of growth hormones, but also of antibiotic resistance due to rampant antibiotic use.”

An estimated 80 percent of all medically important antibiotics in the U.S. are fed to livestock. Used as a preventative against diseases and infections common in factory farms, antibiotics are also used to enhance animal growth, shortening the time to market for producers and thus increasing production and profit cycles.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.