Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Timely Reminder …

As radical animal rights groups continue to attack our industry, HOTH reminds everyone that hog farmers produce safe, affordable and healthful food within standards designed with help from veterinarians and other animal-care experts. Providing humane care for pigs at every stage of life is one of the ethical principles U.S. hog farmers live by.

Specifically on the subject of sow housing, NPPC supports the position of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, which is that both gestation stalls and group housing are appropriate for sows. There is no scientific consensus on the best way to house gestating sows because each type of housing has advantages and disadvantages. 

AVMA and AASV also stress that the factor that most affects animal well-being is husbandry skills, or the care we give to each animal.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On The Way Out, Don't Let The Door Hit You In The ...

 J. Dudley Butler, chief architect of the Agriculture Department’s ill-fated “GIPSA rule” reforming livestock marketing, is out as administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration. According to the industry publication AgriPulse, his resignation is effective next Thursday. 

Word of Butler’s departure comes less than six weeks after USDA issued a stripped-down version of the controversial GIPSA regulation. The final version was minus many of the provisions NPPC and the rest of the livestock industry had protested for 18 months.

In the course of the controversy, Butler himself became an issue. Conflict of interest charges flew over his 30 years as a plaintiff’s attorney suing poultry processors under the Packers and Stockyards Act. (A key provision of the originally proposed GIPSA rule would have all-but-guaranteed plaintiff victories in the types of cases Butler argued.)

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement Wednesday praising Butler for his “outstanding service.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Antibiotics Spinning

Some critics of modern agriculture made a big deal of a study conducted by Michigan State University and USDA's Agricultural Research Service that found antibiotics in pig feed increased the number of antibiotic-resistant genes in pigs. 

Scientists have known for quite some time that use of antimicrobials will select for resistant bacteria. But peer-reviewed risk assessments have shown that the risk to public health from antibiotic use in agriculture is negligible.

The MSU-ARS researchers did not look at the effects of antibiotic use in animals on public health outcomes but on animal health and production. The most interesting findings of the study were some clues on how antibiotics may actually help improve growth. It also showed how complex the connection between antibiotic use and resistance is. 

Of course, while they were spinning the MSU-ARS findings, the critics ignored a recent study conducted by Dr. Scott Hurd, an associate professor at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and a former USDA deputy undersecretary for food safety, that found greater amounts of salmonella bacteria on the carcasses of pigs that were sick during their lifetimes -- meaning they weren't given antibiotics that could have prevented their illnesses. It also found there was more sickness and salmonella contamination among pigs that came from antibiotic-free hog operations.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Animal Antibiotics Needed To Feed The World

The head of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has weighed in on the animal antibiotics debate, saying what U.S. livestock producers have long argued: Using antibiotics in livestock production is vital to feeding a growing world population.

OIE Director Bernard Vallat told a news conference that animal antibiotics are “essential to ensure sufficient animal production to feed the planet. Without antibiotics there would be supply problems of animal protein for the human population.”

Vallet did call for action against abuse of antibiotics in livestock production, arguing for better training of veterinarians and for a fight against the illegal trade in antibiotics. “If you take the 100 poorest countries that take no precaution on this matter, we can see antibiotics passed around just like candies, without prescription,” he said.

His comments came on the heels of actions by both the United States and Germany to tighten restrictions on the use of antibiotics in livestock.

Friday, January 13, 2012

‘Non-Healthy’ Eating Plate

Even by Harvard standards, nutrition professor Walter Willett is out there. So it wasn’t surprising that the liberal academic came up with his own version of the government’s new nutrition icon, MyPlate. Willet’s remake, called the Healthy Eating Plate, minimizes consumption of red meat and, especially, bacon.

But a couple of studies remind us that red meat is an important source of nutrients—and can be beneficial in the diet.  A recent paper in Meat Science, for example, noted that consumers of lean, low-fat beef take in more niacin, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, protein and other nutrients than those who don’t eat beef. Separately, an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition argued that a diet containing lean red meat can improve health by decreasing LDL cholesterol.

HOTH prefers MyPlate, which urges consumers to make all protein foods a little less than a quarter of their diet.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Flip Side of Antibiotic Resistance

For years advocates, with little or no evidence, have blamed antibiotic resistance in humans on use of antibiotics in livestock. But what about the reverse? Could it be that people are transmitting antibiotic resistance to livestock?

Researchers at the University of Glasgow looked at a strain of salmonella found both in humans and animals and determined that, when antibiotic resistance was common to both, it most often appeared in humans first. They stopped short of saying the resistance migrated from people to the animals. But they did conclude animals were unlikely to be the major source of the resistance in humans.

The British Veterinary Association welcomed the research, saying it calls into question policies that restrict the use of animal antibiotics to protect humans.  BVA President Carl Padgett called the research “a hugely important step in our understanding of the way resistance occurs.”

The University of Glasgow study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.