A Facebook friend recently wrote that he would never eat at fast food restaurant because “their meat and chicken are stuffed with antibiotics and hormones.” This statement creates a vivid image, but as we all know, Facebook can be a source of misinformation on almost every topic.
I decided to dig a bit deeper into this topic and reveal the truth. This is not a sexy topic, but stick with me to discover the facts.
Reacting to concerns regarding antibiotic resistance over the past few years, the Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to change how antibiotics are used in food-producing animals. The agency is moving to eliminate drugs for growth promotion and feed efficiency and bring the therapeutic use of antibiotics under the supervision of a veterinarian.
The veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) requires that the veterinarian has knowledge of the patient via examination or visits to the facility where the patient is managed before antibiotics are prescribed. To summarize, the FDA’s effort is to ensure medically important antimicrobials are used in food animals only for health purposes and not production. Full implementation of the VFD is scheduled for December of this year.
On to hormones. Who among us has not wondered about the amply breasted chickens we’ve been buying for dinner? These big birds are the result of genetics, nutrition and environment — not hormones. Chicken have never been given hormones; they don’t need them, and in fact, it is illegal.
The chicken geneticists know what they are doing. The average broiler in 1965 weighed 3.5 pounds and in 2010 weighed 5.7 pounds. Poultry nutritionists know the perfect mix of amino acids, vitamin and minerals to promote growth. And in case you question these facts, know that growth hormone must be injected daily to work. That would be a challenge on a chicken farm.
There are many reasons to limit fast food, but antibiotics and hormones are not among them.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.