U.S. farmers and ranchers provide the world’s safest food supply to families across the globe
More than 25 ag businesses and organizations have drafted a letter in response to radical claims made by the activist organization Friends of Earth (FOE). The protest group attacked approved production practices used by beef and pork ranchers and farmers supplying meat to leading food chains.
The industry letter, appearing below, is being sent to the CEOs of the fast food chains that received the "Chain Reaction" letter from the activists.
Signers of the rebuttal letter recognize that U.S. farmers and ranchers provide the world’s safest food supply to families across the globe.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance represents farmers, ranchers, veterinarians, animal health and nutrition companies, and others in animal agriculture who provide the world’s safest food supply to families across the United States. We would like to share our perspective on a recent report produced by activist group Friends of the Earth (FOE) about antibiotic stewardship in which your company was mentioned. The “Chain Reaction” report critiqued industry progress in eliminating what it called the “routine” use of antibiotics in animal agriculture and concluded that companies were making positive steps concerning antibiotic use in their chicken supply chains, but “lag” on beef, pork and turkey. We recognize the complexity of this issue and stand ready to provide information about our actual practices so that you can make the best possible decisions for your company.
We take great pride in raising the safest food supply in the world and are fully committed to addressing any consumer concerns that arise. The “Chain Reaction” report, in many cases, does not accurately portray the practices employed by our farmers and ranchers and the safeguards that have been put in place. For instance, describing antibiotic use as “routine” as the report did suggests that they are used indiscriminately. That is simply untrue. As of January 1, 2017, antibiotics that are similar to those used in human medicine cannot legally be used to promote growth in food animals. The growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics have been eliminated, and all remaining uses of these antibiotics in feed and water must be done under the supervision of a veterinarian. More about how farmers, veterinarians and FDA collaborated to make this significant change can be found at www.togetherabx.com.
Remaining uses carry a Food and Drug Administration-approved label for either disease treatment, disease control or disease prevention. All of these are considered by FDA, American Veterinary Medical Association and international bodies to be “therapeutic” because they are targeted at a specific disease or pathogen listed on the label. They cannot be used unless a licensed veterinarian makes the judgment a disease threat exists. They are not routine and activist groups like FOE are now pressuring companies to make decisions that will ultimately jeopardize the health and well-being of animals raised for food production.
The report also inaccurately implied that the beef, pork and turkey industries somehow lack a commitment to continuous improvement and ensuring responsible antibiotic use. The facts show otherwise.
• In the beef industry, cattlemen and women consult with veterinarians to develop a health program for cattle designed to keep the herd healthy and protect the future use of antibiotics for human and animal health. The future effectiveness of these animal health tools is just as important to cattlemen and women as it is to consumers. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association “Producer Guidelines
for Judicious Use of Antimicrobials” has been in place since 1987 and specifically outlines the appropriate use of these products. These guidelines include preventing problems by ensuring appropriate husbandry and hygiene, routine health examinations and vaccinations; selecting and using antibiotics carefully with the consultation of a veterinarian; avoiding antibiotics important in human medicine as first line therapy and more.
- Pork producers, with the guidance of their veterinarians, use a variety of tools such as vaccinations, housing, ventilation and antibiotics, when necessary, to keep their animals healthy. The Pork Quality Assurance® Plus (PQA Plus) certification program and the We Care initiative underscore pork producers’ commitment to practices that protect human health, including the stewardship of antibiotics. Pork producers work with veterinarians on evaluating the use of antibiotics as part of their herd health program. This includes evaluating their use to protect animal health, optimize their effectiveness and minimize the risk of developing antibiotic resistance, thereby protecting public health.
- Turkey producers and processors are also committed to the wellbeing of farm animals and the safety of the food supply. Medications are one of the many options we have to protect the health and wellbeing of our birds. Monitoring antibiotic residues is an important part of antibiotic safety, and the turkey industry works hard to ensure that violative residues are not present. The Food Safety and Inspection Service closely monitors residues of antibiotics and other medications, sampling flocks of turkeys at random to test for residues. Animals that test positive for violative residues cannot go into the food supply. In turkey production, these tests have consistently confirmed turkey is safe to eat.America’s farmers, ranchers and veterinarians have an ethical obligation to care for their animals and they take that responsibility seriously. Animal welfare includes proper housing, management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible care and humane handling. Medicines, including antibiotics, are important tools for veterinarians tasked with protecting animal health and preventing suffering from disease - arbitrarily removing these medicines can lead to poor animal welfare. Part of this responsibility also includes ensuring food coming from those animals is safe for human consumption. If livestock or poultry are treated with antibiotics, they must go through a specific withdrawal period (determined by the antibiotic prescribed) to ensure enough time has passed for the antibiotic to leave the animal's system before being processed to ensure meat, milk and eggs are free of unsafe residues. The data shows that consumers can feel confident that these withdrawal periods are followed and effective.While activist groups continue to elicit fear and spread misinformation, the animal agriculture community strives to find solutions by working with groups that have a vested interest in providing the best animal care possible to farm animals while providing safe, nutritious food to the public. The Alliance invites you to reach out to your suppliers, farmers and ranchers if you have questions about antibiotic use.Let me close by saying that we recognize that this is a challenging, complex issue and we stand ready to assist you in any way possible. Thank you for your consideration. I may be reached at 703-562-1412 with any questions.Sincerely,Kay Johnson Smith President and CEO
Signing Organizations & Companies
American Farm Bureau Federation American Feed Industry Association American Veal Association
American National CattleWomen Animal Health Institute Livestock Marketing Association National Pork Board
National Pork Producers Council National Turkey Federation North American Meat Institute Protect the Harvest
Companies & State/Regional Associations
Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative Great Plains Livestock Consulting, Inc. Illinois Farm Bureau
Iowa Soybean Association
Iowa Pork Producers Association
Macon County (IL) Farm Bureau
Michigan Pork Producers Association Minnesota Turkey Growers Association Nebraska Corn Board
Nebraska Corn Growers Association Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance Northeast Dairy Foods Association, Inc. Northeast Dairy Producers Association Ohio Poultry Association
Phibro Animal Health Corporation
Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
- U.S. farmers and ranchers provide the world’s safest food supply to families across the globe