There May Be a Will and a Way to Make Meat Safer

5453997353_5912df5a27_b.jpgThose of us who have been paying attention to the rise of antibiotic resistant bugs, may feel that we are protecting ourselves (and doing our civic duty) by buying antibiotic-free meat at natural food markets, or from local farmers. We are also well aware that this type of meat can come at a higher price, which we might assume would make it difficult for the market for “drug-free” meat to grow. 

Consumer Reports recently published a study that challenges this supposition. Results from a recent nationally administered telephone survey found:

. . . most consumers (58%) are willing to pay more per pound for meat raised without antibiotics. In fact, a notable portion of consumers (32%) would pay one dollar or more per pound for antibiotic-free meat.”

The majority of us, it seems, are ready to put our money where our mouths are for better choices for meat in our supermarkets.

Superbugs are just one part of the malefic puzzle inherent in the processes of our modern-day meat industry. Fixing the whole system would involve decreasing antibiotics and environmental impacts, while increasing animal welfare, production and profitability. Maryn McKenna (highlighted this week in Civil Eats) writes about the potential solution in a recent Slate article on a new poultry production system in the Netherlands. Invented by the Dutch company Vencomatic, this system was originally designed with animal welfare in mind. Describing it McKenna writes:

When the chicks pop out, they tumble off the rack into their growing area and can eat and drink immediately. That might seem unremarkable, but it is actually rare. Broiler chicks aren’t fed at a hatchery; they don’t eat until they reach the farm where they will grow to chickenhood. The trip is supposed to happen soon after they emerge — but since chicks are hatched in large batches and don’t all emerge at the same moment, some can wait two days for their first meal."

There are many other small but impressive innovations in the Vencomatic system that suggest that it very well could be the future of the chicken house. McKenna is the author of Wired’s Superbug Blogand her article is brimming with excellent information about the current state of antibiotic resistant bugs in the U.S. and across the world.

 PHOTO: CSKK, Creative Commons

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