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Health concern over feeding livestock animal’s antibiotics

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Oct 24 2013 10:47:19 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

A new study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least 23,000 people die every year in the U.S. from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Some large meat packers say the drugs are necessary to kill infections in livestock but others say its bad practice.

Thursday afternoon NBC Montana talked with a local ranchers John and Cheryl Stahl who tells us they don’t use antibiotics on their livestock because they don't want to build up their own resistance to antibiotics.

“If I take in a lot of food that has the antibiotics then I do the same thing and so do you,” explains Cheryl.  “Our systems are not prepared for that so were getting the antibiotic out of the animal and were building up a resistance to things also.”

For decades the Stahl’s have raised sheep, goats, turkeys and other animals and they tell us they only use antibiotics if it's absolutely necessary; this year of their 250 sheep only 10 needed antibiotics.

“We keep an eye on the animals that we absolutely have to use antibiotics on and we don't want to sell those,” says Cheryl.  “If we do we let the people know that they’ve had antibiotics.”

According to the Food and Drug Administration as much as 80 percent of antibiotics sold in this country are fed to animals.

Advocates for anti-biotic use say a growing global population demands livestock that are resistant to infections and they argue this way animals not only grow faster but larger -- meaning more meat for consumers.

However the Stahl's say over-dosing livestock with antibiotics puts consumers at risk.

“Eventually were going to have a bug hit that's resistant to all of these antibiotics and it's going to wipe out the entire food line,” says John.   

The couple tells us over the past several years they've had an increase in demand for their antibiotic free animals.
 
“We have people drive in all of the time, they'll go by and they'll see our lambs, sheep or turkeys and they slam on the breaks and they come in and they say 'we noticed you have sheep, do you sell them? And we'll say yes we do,” explains Cheryl.  

The Stahl's say right now they only sell a small amount of livestock to people around the region but with more of a demand for antibiotic free meat they tell us they will hope to sell even more soon.

John tells us livestock animals are shipped all over the country for processing and that the process is incredibly stressful on the animals; he says that stress is unhealthy for the animals and is another reason why some large meat packers have to use antibiotics.

He tells us buying locally raised meat helps reduce the need for antibiotics.  
For more information about antibiotic use in animals, click here.