In the United States we have an obsession with bacon. What started out with a few slices on a Sunday morning has now become bacon on our sandwiches, bacon in our salad, we even have put bacon in our chocolate. So what is behind all of the concern that has recently been spotlighted by doctors and nutritionist alike? It is not that over consumption of foods like these can lead to high cholesterol, obesity, indigestion, and heart problems. We have known that for years. The new concern is the antibiotics used in pork. In 2014, studies shed light on the fact that roughly two thirds of all antibiotics manufactured in the US were used in the agriculture industry. This was a national wake up call and caused huge concern as the overuse of antibiotics on farms means that bacteria adapt, become resistant, and can breed superbugs that pose a global threat to human health. The CDC called antibiotic resistance “one of the world’s most pressing health concerns.” Here is a short clip from a recent interview with Dr. Temple about the issues with antibiotic overuse.
The poultry industry was quick to react with many of the leading poultry producers and restaurants that serve poultry have vowed not serve poultry raised with antibiotics. The pork industry is a different story.
Why, you may ask, are pork farmers so far behind chicken farmers in reducing their use of antibiotics? The reason is that pigs are much more complicated to raise. Chickens are hatched and then shipped to a farm where they stay and live out their life, which is roughly 48 days. Pigs, on the other hand, are born on a farm where they live with their mother for two-three weeks as they nurse. They are then shipped to another farm where they live for another 6-8 weeks until they are shipped to yet another farm called a “finishing farm,” where they are fattened up for 8 weeks. The longer life span as well as all of the moving from farm to farm makes the pigs more susceptible to disease.
What to do about it? Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you to stop eating bacon as I know I’d lose about half of my readers. What I would suggest is to, first, monitor how much bacon you are eating and save it for the occasional Sunday rather than every day on your sandwich. Second, know where your bacon comes from. China has about half of the world’s pig population and uses the most antibiotics in their meat. Niman Ranch is a brand to look for that doesn’t use antibiotics in their meat. Check out stores like Whole Foods, as well, who are knowledgeable as to which of their producers use antibiotics and which do not. In the meantime, try skipping the bacon at next Sunday’s brunch.
Happy and Healthy Eating!
Your Health Coach, Kelley