The Human Health Effects of Cultivated Meat: Antibiotic Resistance

The Human Health Effects of Cultivated Meat: Antibiotic Resistance
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Miracle drug antibiotics are being squandered to compensate for the overcrowded, stressful, unhygienic conditions on factory farms.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Cultivating muscle meat straight from cells instead of carving it from animals would reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, now due to fecal contamination during slaughtering and the evisceration of carcasses, because there would be no feces, would be no slaughter, and no carcasses to eviscerate. In addition, it would also reduce the threat from antibiotic resistance.

To compensate for the overcrowded, stressful, unhygienic conditions on factory farms, the animals are dosed en masse with antibiotics. Lots of antibiotics—we’re talking 20 million pounds a year of medically important antibiotics. So, we give farm animals in the United States like 2 million pounds of penicillin drugs and 15 million pounds of tetracyclines. This is madness. It gets laced right into their feed and water. We’re talking antibiotics important to human medicine being fed to cows, pigs, and chickens by the ton––by the thousands of tons–– laced into their feed or water. And that’s all without a prescription. Ninety-seven percent of the tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics given to farm animals in the United States are bought over the counter, as in without a prescription or order from a veterinarian. To even get a few milligrams of penicillin, you need a doctor’s prescription, because these are miracle wonder drugs that can’t be squandered. But meanwhile, farmers can just back their trucks right up to the feedstore.

And now, half the salmonella in retail meat (chicken, turkey, beef, and pork) is resistant to tetracycline. About a quarter of the bugs are now resistant to three or more entire classes of antibiotics, including some resistant to ceftriaxone, which is a critically important drug we use to treat severe Salmonella infections, especially in children.

Such agricultural applications for antimicrobials are now considered an urgent threat to human health, with the link between antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic resistance in humans considered unequivocal.

It all starts in the poop. Antibiotic-resistant bugs are selected for, and then can spread via the meat or produce contaminated by the poop, or in the wing, the air, the water, or carried by insects. There are lots of pathways by which resistant superbugs can escape. So, even if you don’t eat meat, you can be put at risk by the pathogens released from stressed, immune-compromised, contaminant-filled livestock pumped with antibiotics. That’s one of the reasons the American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium on factory farms—all the pollution of the surrounding communities.

More than five tons of animal manure are produced for every man, woman, and child in the United States every year. It all starts with the poop. But cultivated meat means no guts, no poop, no fecal infections, no antibiotics necessary, and no fecal or antibiotic residues left in the meat, which can potentially cause a variety of side effects beyond just the transfer of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to humans.

And things are getting worse—not better. U.S. animal agriculture is using more antibiotics now than ever before. And it’s not just because we’re raising more animals. Antibiotic sales in the U.S. are outpacing meat production. Yes, meat production is going up, but check out the rise in antibiotic sales for meat production. With the combined might of big ag and big pharma (who profit from selling all the drugs), it’s hard to imagine anything changing on the political side. Maybe the only hope is a change in the production side.

The unstoppable rise of super-resistant strains of bacteria is a serious worldwide problem, resulting in 700,000 deaths every year. And the projections for global antibiotic use in food-animal production are ominous, perhaps exceeding 100,000 tons of antibiotics pumped into animals for food by 2030. Quite simply, we may be on the path to untreatable infections by using even some of our last-resort antibiotics, like carbapenems, just to shave a few cents off a pound of meat.

And it’s not just foodborne bacteria. There’s mad cow, swine flu, and bird flu with the potential to kill millions of people. Skeptical? I’ve got a book for you to read, whose author’s superb story-telling ability evidently makes it a must-read.

Given the threat of the chickens coming home to roost, an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health thought it curious that ceasing to eat them or, at the very least, radically limiting the quantity of them that are eaten, is largely off the radar as a significant measure to prevent the next influenza pandemic. Yet, humanity does not even seem to consider this option. But humanity need not consider that option because you could make all the chicken you want, without guts or lungs.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Cultivating muscle meat straight from cells instead of carving it from animals would reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, now due to fecal contamination during slaughtering and the evisceration of carcasses, because there would be no feces, would be no slaughter, and no carcasses to eviscerate. In addition, it would also reduce the threat from antibiotic resistance.

To compensate for the overcrowded, stressful, unhygienic conditions on factory farms, the animals are dosed en masse with antibiotics. Lots of antibiotics—we’re talking 20 million pounds a year of medically important antibiotics. So, we give farm animals in the United States like 2 million pounds of penicillin drugs and 15 million pounds of tetracyclines. This is madness. It gets laced right into their feed and water. We’re talking antibiotics important to human medicine being fed to cows, pigs, and chickens by the ton––by the thousands of tons–– laced into their feed or water. And that’s all without a prescription. Ninety-seven percent of the tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics given to farm animals in the United States are bought over the counter, as in without a prescription or order from a veterinarian. To even get a few milligrams of penicillin, you need a doctor’s prescription, because these are miracle wonder drugs that can’t be squandered. But meanwhile, farmers can just back their trucks right up to the feedstore.

And now, half the salmonella in retail meat (chicken, turkey, beef, and pork) is resistant to tetracycline. About a quarter of the bugs are now resistant to three or more entire classes of antibiotics, including some resistant to ceftriaxone, which is a critically important drug we use to treat severe Salmonella infections, especially in children.

Such agricultural applications for antimicrobials are now considered an urgent threat to human health, with the link between antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic resistance in humans considered unequivocal.

It all starts in the poop. Antibiotic-resistant bugs are selected for, and then can spread via the meat or produce contaminated by the poop, or in the wing, the air, the water, or carried by insects. There are lots of pathways by which resistant superbugs can escape. So, even if you don’t eat meat, you can be put at risk by the pathogens released from stressed, immune-compromised, contaminant-filled livestock pumped with antibiotics. That’s one of the reasons the American Public Health Association has called for a moratorium on factory farms—all the pollution of the surrounding communities.

More than five tons of animal manure are produced for every man, woman, and child in the United States every year. It all starts with the poop. But cultivated meat means no guts, no poop, no fecal infections, no antibiotics necessary, and no fecal or antibiotic residues left in the meat, which can potentially cause a variety of side effects beyond just the transfer of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to humans.

And things are getting worse—not better. U.S. animal agriculture is using more antibiotics now than ever before. And it’s not just because we’re raising more animals. Antibiotic sales in the U.S. are outpacing meat production. Yes, meat production is going up, but check out the rise in antibiotic sales for meat production. With the combined might of big ag and big pharma (who profit from selling all the drugs), it’s hard to imagine anything changing on the political side. Maybe the only hope is a change in the production side.

The unstoppable rise of super-resistant strains of bacteria is a serious worldwide problem, resulting in 700,000 deaths every year. And the projections for global antibiotic use in food-animal production are ominous, perhaps exceeding 100,000 tons of antibiotics pumped into animals for food by 2030. Quite simply, we may be on the path to untreatable infections by using even some of our last-resort antibiotics, like carbapenems, just to shave a few cents off a pound of meat.

And it’s not just foodborne bacteria. There’s mad cow, swine flu, and bird flu with the potential to kill millions of people. Skeptical? I’ve got a book for you to read, whose author’s superb story-telling ability evidently makes it a must-read.

Given the threat of the chickens coming home to roost, an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health thought it curious that ceasing to eat them or, at the very least, radically limiting the quantity of them that are eaten, is largely off the radar as a significant measure to prevent the next influenza pandemic. Yet, humanity does not even seem to consider this option. But humanity need not consider that option because you could make all the chicken you want, without guts or lungs.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

It’s hard to stress the importance of that American Journal of Public Health editorial. As devastating as COVID-19 has been, it may just be a dress rehearsal for an even greater threat waiting in the wings…of chickens.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading candidate for the next pandemic is a bird flu virus known as H7N9, which is a hundred times deadlier than COVID-19. Instead of 1 in 250 patients dying, H7N9 has killed 40 percent of people it infects.

The last time a bird flu virus jumped directly to humans and caused a pandemic, it triggered the deadliest plague in human history—the 1918 pandemic that killed 50 million people. That had a 2 percent death rate. What if we had a pandemic infecting billions where death was closer to a flip of a coin?

The good news is there is something we can do about it. Just as eliminating the exotic animal trade and live animal markets may go a long way toward preventing the next coronavirus pandemic, reforming the way we raise domestic animals for food may help forestall the next killer flu. The bottom line is that it’s not worth risking the lives of millions of people for the sake of cheaper chicken.

If you missed the previous video, see The Human Health Effects of Cultivated Meat: Food Safety. Up next is The Human Health Effects of Cultivated Meat: Chemical Safety.

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