WASHINGTON — $100 for a hamburger? That could be the
scenario if anti-livestock agriculture activists have their way with the U.S.
livestock and meat industry, according to one physician.
“I bought a hamburger one night, and it cost me $105, 105
U.S. dollars. That is what will happen if we have to change our ag practices to
what Pew and others would like us to do,” said Dr. Richard Raymond, former
undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture under
secretary Mike Johanns.
Raymond was responding to three reports, one an analysis of
a 2008 report issued by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production
that issued six recommendations for regulating food animal production in the
U.S.; the second, a 2013 analysis of how well those recommendations had been put
into action by lawmakers and policymakers at the federal level; and the third
report, an analysis by the Animal Agriculture Alliance of the advances made by
the U.S. livestock industry in areas mentioned in the Pew report, including in
the use of antibiotics in food animal production.
Raymond dinged both the anti-livestock agriculture and the
livestock agriculture sectors for putting out misleading information.
“I believe the information oftentimes is wrong. I think both
from the industry standpoint and from people who don’t want us to consume
animals,” he said.
“The numbers of 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the
U.S. are used in animals is inflammatory and does not represent the true issue.
The statement that all antibiotics are prescribed under the supervision of
veterinarians is equally wrong,” the official said.
“The numbers I use — and these are facts I can support — 40
percent of all antibiotics used in animals are antibiotics that are ionophores,
which have never been approved for use in human medicine and nothing like them
are approved for use in human medicine, so immediately we remove 40 percent from
the discussion,” he added. Ionophores are growth promotants.
Raymond said other drugs are oxytetracycline and
chlorotetracycline, which account, according to him, for 42 percent of
antibiotics used in livestock production. Those drugs, he said, are “extremely
poor” third or fourth choices for treatment of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain
Of the remaining 18 percent, only 0.3 percent are comprised
of cephalosporins and fluroquinolones, which are used to treat humans and
“The FDA has done a very good job or protecting our health
by limiting their use,” Raymond said.
Information about the limiting of antibiotic usage, as well
as food safety improvements, animal care and welfare and sustainability is
contained in the new report released by the Animal Agriculture Alliance, titled
“Advances in Animal Agriculture: What the Center for a Livable Future, Pew
Commission and Others Aren’t Telling You.”
The report details advancements in the beef, dairy, poultry
and swine industries in the U.S.
Raymond, who wrote the foreword for the AAA report,
practiced family medicine in his home state of Nebraska before being tapped by
Johanns as first the chief medical officer for the state under Johanns’
governorship and then for the USDA post, said lack of access to affordable
protein was an issue he encountered.
“I began to see a large number of Hispanic and African
American patients who had problems accessing quality food because of lack of
disposable income. I began to realize that this is a huge public health problem
if food was not affordable,” he said.
Another speaker on the media call sponsored by AAA was Dr.
Scott Hurd, professor of veterinary medicine at Iowa State University. He
mentioned that his “boots on the ground” experience in central Iowa is different
than the picture painted by activists.
“I raise eight children here in central Iowa and so the
quality and cost of food is very important to me. Interesting, actually, is that
I also realized that within five miles of my house, there are about 10,000 pigs
and 100,000 turkeys, so we live right in the middle of this — what Pew would
make you think is a deadly zone of industrial farming. Actually, you can’t see
an animal, you can’t smell an animal anywhere around here, so it’s actually
quite a bit different story than folks tend to paint,” he said.
Hurd said the AAA highlights the advancements that each
sector of the U.S. livestock industry has made in individual areas.
“The report from the animal ag alliance has shown that the
industry has done a great deal and continues to make progress in how they raise
animals and not overusing antibiotics,” he said.
Hurd also called into question the use, by Pew and others,
of scientific reviews and research.
“In my blog, hurdhealth.com, I talked about the problems
that Pew has in how they use scientific reviews and scientific literature. There
are rules for how that should be done, and I pretty much show how they violate
all those rules, so again I just try to understand why they bite the hand that
feeds us,” he said.
Two other speakers on the call, Dr. Frank Mitloehner of the
University of California at Davis and Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson of the University
of Illinois, talked about their work and research working directly with
livestock farmers on various issues, including, for Mitloehner, air quality and
air pollution and, for Salak-Johnson, animal welfare and animal well-being.
“I have not seen any other place in the world than the
United States, with respect to expertise in and around the livestock industries.
Particularly the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the dairy industry
started several years back to establish sustainability initiatives that rival no
others. They are unsurpassed worldwide. I cannot say that people have leaned
back, but the opposite — people have stepped forward and they have looked at
what are the different sustainability areas. No other industry worldwide has
more insight and expertise in this area than that of this country,” Mitloehner