Is Your Thanksgiving Turkey On Drugs?

by Chris Morran, Consumerist

pair-of-wild-turkey-birds-mWe’ve written before about the overuse of antibiotics in turkeys and how it contributes to the development of drug-resistant bacteria, and some companies have pledged to cut down on the amount of unnecessary antibiotics they feed to their birds. But was the turkey you’re planning to carve up next Thursday raised using these and other potentially harmful drugs?

That’s the subject of a new report from non-profit group Food Animal Concerns Trust, which looked at the nation’s largest turkey producers and their policies for antibiotics use and the feed additive ractopamine, which is allowed in the U.S. but banned in dozens of other countries around the world.

The FACT survey asked companies to provide information regarding three key issues. First, do they use medically important antibiotics for “disease prevention”? This is a common reason given by farmers to employ antibiotics, but many scientists believe that continual, low-dose prophylactic use of antibiotics only has the end result of further encouraging the development of drug-resistant pathogens.

The second question involves the use of antibiotics for growth-promotion. In 2013, the FDA asked drug companies to remove growth-promotion as an allowable use for their animal antibiotics. Of course, that doesn’t stop these drugs from continuing to work as growth-promoters; it just means the farmers have to change their reason for using the antibiotics to “disease prevention.”

Finally, there’s the issue of ractopamine, a lean-ness promoter used in the last stages of turkey farming that encourages muscle growth without additional fat.

Continue reading on »