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Why We’re Committed to “No Antibiotics, Ever”

January 23, 2019

If you had a choice between beef raised with antibiotics or without, which would you choose? Most people would prefer without, and some major brands are listening. McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Costco have recently released plans to reduce the amount of antibiotics in the meat they source.

Kunoa has been committed to a “no antibiotics, ever” policy from the start, so these are encouraging announcements. Hopefully, more companies will follow suit, and what has been the exception will eventually become standard.

Why is reducing antibiotics use so important?
The bottom line is that antibiotic misuse puts both human and animal health at risk around the globe.

Farmers and ranchers started giving antibiotics to animals in the 1950s when it was discovered to be an economical way to speed up an animal’s growth. This helped boost production and keep prices down and soon became routine for livestock producers to include low doses of common antibiotics in feed and water to promote growth and prevent disease.

As antibiotics use has risen, bacteria are adapting to become resistant to our medicines. If you end up getting sick from this adapted bacteria, you may be sick longer and need to be hospitalized, and there may not be an antibiotic available that’s effective against what you have. Left unchecked, the consequences could be devastating. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls antibiotic resistance “one of the world’s most pressing public health problems.”

In the U.S., the CDC estimates that at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die annually as a direct result of these infections. About one in five resistant infections are caused by germs from food and animals.

In 2017, the FDA took a big step forward when a policy took effect that bans antibiotic use in animals for growth purposes. Now, medically important antibiotics are only allowed to be given to animals for disease prevention and control, and only under the direction of a veterinarian. An FDA report released last month shows that the policy is having an impact. Sales and distribution of antibiotics for use in livestock have decreased by 28% from 2009 to 2017. But advocates like the NRDC say usage is still too high. They argue that the policy doesn’t go far enough because it still allows for widespread use of antibiotics to prevent diseases that break out because of the crowded living conditions of industrial farms.

Kunoa’s Position on Antibiotics
Kunoa’s policy has always been “no added antibiotic or hormones, ever.” And honestly, we don’t feel like we need them. Because our cattle live their entire lives on Hawaii pastures, with room to roam and eat the forages and grasses they were born to eat, our animals’ risk of becoming sick is much lower than those in the commodity food system. If an animal does get sick, it is separated from the herd and administered antibiotics if necessary, but then it doesn’t get sold to our customers.

As a company dedicated to healthy communities, animals and land, it’s important that our work doesn’t contribute to the very real public health threat that widespread antibiotic use poses. It’s our hope that consumer pressure, government regulations, and the growth of livestock operations like ours will continue to reduce antibiotic use in our food system.

Want to Know More?
If you’d like to read more about antibiotic use in the food system, here are some sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Most Burger Chains Get Failing Grades for Antibiotics Use (Consumer Reports)

Antibiotics in Meat Could Be Damaging Our Guts (NYTimes)

The Hidden Link Between Farm Antibiotic Use and Human Illness (Wired)

Major Firms Agree to ‘Framework’ for Antibiotic Stewardship in Animals (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy)