I’ve blogged before about the inhumane conditions that animals are raised in before we eat them, but I’ve got some new stuff to share. Check out my fun comic! I made up the ending, so it’s a fairy tale, but it can come true if you want it to.
Want to rescue chickens from cruel treatment? How about rescuing your children from the threat of antibiotic-resistant diseases that were once preventible? It’s not that hard and you can do it! Read on!
The life of a factory chicken
You may have heard that chickens are fed antibiotics and hormones to make them grow fast. It also makes them grow disproportionally so that their breasts (which are the most valued meat) are huge. This makes them unable to walk. This development in farming increases profits because the animals reach slaughter in a fraction of the time. It also reduces the need for factories to invest in hygiene and adequate space for chickens to live—chickens are piled together in their own filth and take medication to prevent them from contracting illnesses and dying.
According to an article in the publication Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, there are 16,000 deaths each year resulting from antibiotic infections. Experts predict this will only continue to rise.
Which label to look for
There’s been a frenzy of “no-antibiotic” labels on chicken products. Manufacturers understand that consumers are starting to pay attention and they don’t like what they see. But the labels are confusing and sometimes deliberatively deceptive so consumers don’t understand what they mean. Want a quick, rollicking ride through the definitions?
ORGANIC. Otherwise known as safe chicken, or the chicken your grandparents ate, and therefore my favorite. This means no antibiotics EXCEPT when the chick is still in the egg and on the first day of life. What?? Yes, this is bizarre and demonstrates how the Big Players are constantly trying to water down the organic standards. If you want to ensure organic, the label organic isn’t enough; you will have look for an additional label declaring RAISED WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS. Sorry people. It’s a lot to ask but you’ll get used to it and you’ll be healthier and you won’t be supporting animal abuse. All worth it.
RAISED WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS. This is what you want to hear. The labels No antibiotics ever and Never given antibiotics are also used and presumably mean the same thing. If an animal gets sick and requires antibiotics it must be sent to a facility for conventional cows. Unfortunately there are no USDA inspections so manufacturers can use these labels which command a higher dollar value and get away with it. That’s why you also want a USDA PROCESS VERIFIED label, which means that an inspector verified that the meat is antibiotic-free. Consumers shouldn’t have to go through this much trouble….
NO MEDICALLY IMPORTANT ANTIBIOTICS. LOL. Seriously? Who made that up? Yeah, we both know who. This means that animals get animal antibiotics and not human antibiotics. But they are still antibiotics and they still lead to antibiotic resistance, so it feels like a deliberate attempt to deceive the consumer. To boot, the fine print says that companies can still use human antibiotics for disease prevention, just not for growth purposes.
NO CRITICALLY IMPORTANT ANTIBIOTICS. Are we having fun yet? If you have a headache, I suggest strong coffee, which is what I use for mine, or a diffuser like this with a few drops of lavender, chamomile, and frankincense. Or you can go for a brisk walk. Anyway, this laughable label means that the company is no longer using some of the antibiotics used to treat people. But most human antibiotics aren’t used in animals in the first place so it really means nothing.
NO GROWTH-PROMOTING ANTIBIOTICS. You would never guess it, but this label means that human antibiotics shouldn’t be used to expedite growth in animals. But again, human antibiotics aren’t the ones typically used for growth. They’re sometimes used for illness, and under this label they still can be. So this one is pretty much a wash.
ONE HEALTH CERTIFIED. Sounds better than it is, people, so don’t be fooled. The label was developed by the industry and is used in certain wholesale clubs. While the label touts a commitment to animal welfare and environmental issues, the reality is almost indistinguishable from standard factory farming: overcrowding, and antibiotic use. Companies who use this label must measure their carbon footprint but, ridiculously, are not required to take any action.
Which label do you want?
What are you currently eating?
Want to know what kind of chicken your favorite restaurant is serving? Click here. A lot of chains have jumped on the no-antibiotic bandwagon because their consumers don’t want to eat medicated animals. Still, most chains prefer using the cheapest meat possible which keeps the demand high for factory farming. Check out the scorecard for big chains:
HALL OF SHAME
Consumer Reports called out the following companies for doing nothing to restrict the use of antibiotics in their meat: Applebee’s, Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Domino’s IHOP, Jack in the Box, Little Caesars, Olive Garden, Panda Express, Pizza Hut, Sonic, and Starbucks. Note that policies change all the time and there is a slow but steady trend away from antibiotics. Want updated info? Call the corporate offices of these chains and ask.
Want to read the entire Consumer Reports article? It’s a load of fun. Here it is. A good bedtime story for the kids…
Alrighty, you’ve got some homework
Start checking labels! A little something you can do to make the world a better place, starting with the animals, then your children, and, of course, you. Start asking questions at restaurants and grocery stores. You want drug-free food.
Companies are most likely to make changes when consumers demand it, because consumers can take their business elsewhere. I would love for Congress to pass a bill and they probably will someday; in the meantime we can all vote with our pocketbooks.
More great articles
Here’s one from the Human League that’s packed with detailed info: Why are Antibiotics Given To Chickens?