Meat prices could go up with new FDA antibiotics plan - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Meat prices could go up with new FDA antibiotics plan

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DUBUQUE COUNTY (KWWL) -

Food safety is at the heart of a crackdown by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on what it's calling unnecessary antibiotic use in livestock.

The FDA's goal is to help reduce the creation and spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that could infect livestock or humans.

Most antibiotics livestock producers use are to stop the spread of disease in their herds and flocks. However, some antibiotics farmers use as a growth-promoter, to get more meat from each animal or reduce the amount of feed needed.

It's that use of antibiotics as a growth-promoter the FDA is trying to curb.

Dubuque County hog and cattle farmer Wayne Demmer said he only uses antibiotics on his animals when one is sick.

"We always follow the label," he said Thursday on his farm. "We do it to the veterinarian's recommendations and...not any more than we have to. We try to, like always, we do not want to overuse."

He said he's aware other farmers use antibiotics as a growth-promoter and said banning that practice may have an impact on meat prices, since the cost of corn to feed the animals has been so high the last few years.

"If we want to regulate growth promotion, it's going to have to go up because if a farmer is going to feed more expensive feed and not get the efficiency-- I mean, and that's what growth-promoting has done. It's an efficiency," Demmer said.

Currently, many farmers can get antibiotics at their local feed store. However, the FDA's new plan would require a veterinarian's prescription to access the medicine, ensuring a farmer would only be using antibiotics when medically necessary for an animal.

Demmer said he believes if American farmers are going to be held to high standards, the meat should be labeled accordingly.

"If you go into a store, you know it's American-grown, American-raised by whatever rules and regulations the FDA's set," Demmer said. "We do not watch what comes in from other countries. A lot of these products have been taken away from us, still used in foreign countries in their crops and their livestock, and that comes back to this country."

Craig Recker is a Dubuque County cattle farmer, who said he hasn't seen widespread use of antibiotics as a growth promoter in some 20 years, though there are other, non-antibiotic growth promoters that are more commonly used. When it comes to antibiotic use, he said, cattle farmers these days are relying on preventative medicine, vaccinating the calves to avoid costly antibiotics later.

The FDA is working with animal pharmaceutical companies to take growth promotion and feed efficiency off the list of "medically important" reasons for antibiotic use. The drug manufacturers have three months to tell the FDA whether they'll make the recommended changes and then three years to make the changes. The FDA stresses the antibiotic plan is voluntary.

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