Pollan on McDonald’s Anti-Anti-Biotics

In an interview with UC Berkeley’s Public Affairs dept., J-School prof Michael Pollan throws water on McDonald’s announcement of intentions to cut back on antibiotics in beef. Pollan distinguishes between antibiotics used to spur growth and those given to fight disease. McDonald’s has only agreed to cut back on antibiotics for growth.

What McDonald’s has done is say that they will favor suppliers that are not using antibiotics for growth promotion. Now they didn’t say anything about the other use of antibiotics. “Prevent disease outbreaks” is key. In that sentence is the license to continue including antibiotics in the feed every day. The other question that comes to mind: If you’re using antibiotics both for growth promotion and to control disease, how do you know which is which?

Something I didn’t know before reading this: Cattle are now ready for slaughter in 14 months, rather than in three years. Good thing, too, because they couldn’t live much longer on account of their livers being shot full of holes by an acidic diet of corn, rather than the mellow grass they’ve evolved to eat. That’s why we don’t eat beef liver anymore – 40% – 60% of beef livers are full of abcesses by the time the cattle are 14 months old.

This just makes me so, so sad. I really do need to read Fast Food Nation.

Music: Tosca :: Busenfreund

10 Replies to “Pollan on McDonald’s Anti-Anti-Biotics”

  1. Besides Fast Food Nation, check out the following books (if you don’t mind a philosophical shakeup):

    • Animal Liberation by Peter Singer.
    • The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams
    • The Case for Animal Rights by Tom Regan
    • Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals
    by Steven M. Wise, Jane Goodall

    And there are dozens of others.

  2. “Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs,
    and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market”

    By the same author as Fast Food Nation…

    Audio Interview with Author Eric Schlosser here:

  3. The increasing rate of antibiotic resistance isn’t only due to eating meat from animals that were fed antibiotics. Over the past decades doctors have been overprescribing antibiotics. And people demand that their doctors give them antibiotics even if they don’t have the symptoms. Our society (i can only comment on that in the US) has such a go-go mentality that we don’t take the time to let ourselves be sick for more than a day. “I can’t be out of work for 3 days!” I really appreciate the fact that my mom very rarely took us to the doctor when we were sick. Her way of thinking was if we were still sick after a week then it is time to go to the doctor. I still follow that mentality. And to be honest I’ve very rarely been so sick that I’ve had to go to a doctor. I recently watched a program on TV where they were discussing the Placebo Effect. People tend to get better if they think they are taking medicine that will make them better. A high percent of those taking placebos got over their illness in a shorter period of time than those not taking any medication. Mind over matter.

  4. Hear hear to that, Gattaca, although what I understand from a radio program heard recently is that antibiotics fed to beef are quite different from and are more virulent than those prescribed by docs, so the two problems overlap and amplify.

    Your mother is a wise woman.

  5. I can definitely recommend Fast Food Nation – most of what you find in there is (to me at least) not hugely surprising (although the chapter on slaughterhouse workers is chilling – I never realised conditions could be so bad, apparently the workers relish days when they are producing meat for export to Europe, because the increased safety requirements mean that they only work at 1/10th the normal rate), but it demands be read to put everything into context and give you a thorough grounding in the subject.

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