EDMONTON, AB -- A growing disconnect between what consumers and livestock producers mean when they use the phrase “antibiotic-free” could threaten animal welfare in the future, says a University of Alberta food economist.
Also read, Antibiotic-free beef and pork too big of a commitment for McDonald's.
Ellen Goddard, a professor in the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, said an increasing number of people were interpreting the term antibiotic-free to mean “no use of antibiotics in the lifetime of an animal.”
“This is potentially a longer-term problem because if there are different meanings, the public out there becomes mistrustful of the industry,” she said.
“The use of the term antibiotic-free drives people in the livestock industry a little bit nuts.”
Goddard said in response to the concern over the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, pressure is mounting on U.S. restaurant chains and grocery store chains to reduce antibiotic use and increase transparency in their supply chains.
It’s a movement that may not take too long to jump the border into Canada, she said.
“The aversion to antibiotics is going to grow over time,” she said.
Goddard said while consumers are concerned about things that impact their own health, they were also equally concerned about animal welfare, yet never using antibiotics “is actually a negative for the animals.”
A possible solution is a simple agreed upon clarification of nomenclature.
“I would like ‘antibiotic-free’ to mean that antibiotics are only used when therapeutically necessary and when prescribed by a veterinarian, because I just think that the animal should be given access to them,” she said.
“Because I would like to think that a dairy cow with mastitis or an animal that gets a cut that becomes infected might be able to have antibiotics used when medically necessary.”
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulate the safe use of antibiotics in farming and for human consumption.
SOURCE Juris Graney, Edmonton Journal
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