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The Abstinence Method: Dutch farmers just say no to antibiotics
June 18, 2014 4:41 PM   Subscribe


 
I didn't know that "piggery" is a word.

Also, according (PDF) to the internet,
Land that has been dug and manured by free-range pigs is described as "well-pigged"
posted by XMLicious at 5:28 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Good on 'em.

I support better food production by spending a little extra on quality staple items, which I afford by not purchasing any "junk" foods.

Sorry, that that sounds sanctimonious. So be it.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:36 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I didn't know that "piggery" is a word.

Get thee to a piggery, go. Farewell.
Muppet Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1
posted by ActingTheGoat at 5:37 PM on June 18 [30 favorites]


Bravo.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:38 PM on June 18


Please tell me on the label if there's something you did/didn't do with any food items.

Is piggery a noun or a verb?

I've seen some of the latter at all-you-can-eat restaurants....
posted by CrowGoat at 5:47 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I *hope* this practice spreads to the US. When I was in the UK studying for a year, I lost like 20 pounds and I swear I didn't do anything too different diet or exercise-wise. When I came back to the US the weight was back within 6 months.
posted by subdee at 5:48 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]


Get thee to a piggery, go. Farewell.
Muppet Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1
posted by ActingTheGoat


Epiggysterical.
posted by scody at 5:49 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


ActingTheGoat, you are such a ham.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 5:53 PM on June 18 [3 favorites]


Batavia docet.
posted by ocschwar at 6:06 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I support better food production by spending a little extra on quality staple items, which I afford by not purchasing any "junk" foods

I do that as well, but I'm pretty sure it costs me significantly more. Junk is cheap, and the good stuff isn't.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:10 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Pigs deserve the best treatment and should be enjoyed with moderation. Bacon ice cream, bacon chocolate, bacon donuts, bacon food trucks...give this little guy a break!
posted by breadbox at 6:15 PM on June 18


Honestly bacon everything is cool and all, but a) we've reached Peak Bacon as an ingredient I think, and b) really, just give me a plate of bacon, nothing else needed.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:34 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]




we've reached Peak Bacon as an ingredient I think

I tend to agree fffm. On the other hand, I made the roast chicken from your website last week. Rubbing bacon fat on the outside of a chicken was a first for me, but you weren't wrong (marinating in buttermilk and stuffing butter under the skin also weren't wrong.) It was delicious.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:48 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


Twilight of Antibiotics, a short article from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, is a good overview of the subject. It's also one of the few I've seen that mentions that you can basically stroll into an animal feed store and buy antibiotics by the pound without a prescription.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:51 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


This is really good. Are there any major campaigns to institute that type of legal regime in the US?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:17 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Junk is cheap, and the good stuff isn't.

Prices have freaking skyrocketed over the past year. It's alarming.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:05 PM on June 18


So, the Dutch minister of agriculture, Gerda Verburg, decided to be bold. She brought the evidence of antibiotic use and its health risks to powerful private organizations (analogous to the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association and National Pork Producers Council) that oversee the raising of different types of animals.

With their buy-in, she developed a tough new policy: No more preventive dosing. Antibiotics after a veterinary inspection only. And farmers would be expected to cut their use severely: by 20 percent in one year, and 50 percent in three.


I can't imagine the US Department of Agriculture being able to pull off something like this.
posted by shoesietart at 9:21 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


Those pictures of the animals, especially the carpet of chickens, were still profoundly depressing.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:05 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I *hope* this practice spreads to the US.

Are there any major campaigns to institute that type of legal regime in the US?

I can't imagine the US Department of Agriculture being able to pull off something like this.


This is unlikely at many scales in the US for a few reasons. Principal among them is that animal welfare in general is more in the public and private consciousness as the EU has a compelling regulatory mandate in Directive 2010/63/EU (and its predecessor 86/609/EEC) to take seriously the treatment of animals. That Directive is aimed, specifically, at experimentation using animals--agriculture is explicitly outside its domain--but the concept spills over into agriculture more so in the EU than the US because that directive has existed for decades. There is nothing even remotely approaching this in the US, although a few groups in the nonprofit sector have been working on it for a very long time.

There's a lot more detail that could go into this discussion, but it's difficult to talk about one's field when animal rights and animal welfare are focal points without immediately triggering peoples' jerking knees and all caps yelling.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:29 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]


I *hope* this practice spreads to the US.

Are there any major campaigns to institute that type of legal regime in the US?

I can't imagine the US Department of Agriculture being able to pull off something like this.


I FPP'd on this a while back: FDA Moves to Reduce Antibiotic Use in Livestock.

Michele in California, thanks for bringing this article to my attention. I raise pigs, so it's relevant to my interests. Also, could you please add an "antibiotics" tag?
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:48 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


NRP actually has an "Antibiotics in Animals" tag, showing a glimpse of a trend from concerns to action. There's also the Antibiotics tag, which shows there isn't a consistent use of tags on NPR, as there are some more animal-specific antibiotics articles, such as this article from December 2013, covering the announcement that "the two biggest veterinary drug companies ... will, in fact, follow the FDA's advice and make it illegal for farmers to use their drugs for growth promotion." But the first tag catches this article on the increased availability of antibiotic-free chicken.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:24 AM on June 19


This is a very interesting article for me because my question whenever the problems of industrialized agriculture come up is always "but can we still feed everyone if you introduce reform X?" This is one of the first things I've read that sounds like maybe the answer, at least on this issue in the Netherlands, is yes. Supposedly it isn't negatively impacting productivity. This is very important. Thanks MiC!
posted by Wretch729 at 9:25 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Also can anyone find anything about whether the apparent success of the Dutch model might translate into EU-level reform? Gerda Verburg, the Minister of Agriculture mentioned in the piece, is now apparently a diplomatic representative for the Netherlands at the UN food and agriculture IGOs.

This NPR piece from 2012 focuses on Denmark, which apparently clamped down on antibiotic use even before the Netherlands did. Be curious to see how the rest of Europe is trending.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:40 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


This is a very interesting article for me because my question whenever the problems of industrialized agriculture come up is always "but can we still feed everyone if you introduce reform X?"

Wretch729, I just recently read Mary Roach on alternative methods of upping pig production in Denmark:
An informal competition exists among the inseminators of Øeslevgaard Farm, I am told—not to inseminate more sows than anyone else, but to inseminate them better. To produce the most piglets.

To win requires patience and finesse in an area few men know anything about: the titillation of the female pig. Research by the Department for Nutrition and Reproduction at Denmark's National Committee for Pig Production showed that sexually stimulating a sow while you artificially inseminate her leads to a six percent improvement in fertility. This in turn led to a government-backed Five-Point Stimulation Plan [photos may be NSFW] for pig farmers, complete with instructional DVD and four-color posters to tack on barn walls. . . .
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:07 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


It's always salient to remember that poisons concentrate in food chains. Why pump our food full of drugs. Can you imagine if you were forced to consume that level of pharma every day -- for no reason?

As for this practice spreading to the US, I'm pessimistic -- and much more worried about it being stamped-out in the EU through the TTIP (PDF) that will enable global companies to sue governments that introduce legislation that harms their ability to make a profit.
posted by Lleyam at 10:55 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Antibiotics tag added. (I had no idea I could add tags after the fact. But then this is only my second successful post to the blue.)

I can't imagine the US Department of Agriculture being able to pull off something like this.

I am a few classes short of an environmental studies degree through a California university. I have had a couple of classes in Environmental Law. In the U.S., historically, California pioneered a lot of environmental laws well before the federal government began doing anything about it. To this day, California has more stringent environmental laws than the federal government.

Because of the way the American government is structured, any state can raise the bar on a standard as long as it is still in compliance with the federal standard as well. California is a huge economic engine and, if it stood alone, would be a wealthy small nation. (I forget the comparisons I have seen about just how much American money is driven by the economy here.) So California is pretty influential (example: California governors have a history of becoming president). Thus, I am kind of hoping the fruit and nuts/granola crowd out here will get on the bandwagon and drag the rest of the country kicking and screaming in its wake, like it has de facto done on other, similar issues.

This is a very interesting article for me because my question whenever the problems of industrialized agriculture come up is always "but can we still feed everyone if you introduce reform X?"

There are ways to intensify what we do and get more out of the existing land which does not deplete it. It tends to boil down to doing things more intelligently and wisely. The preventive antibiotics route is a relatively crude, unintelligent approach and, I think pretty obviously, is proving to be unwise. The consequences are not worth the cost. At a societal level, it makes more sense to go meatless or at least "less meat."

The book Diet for a Small Planet delineated this very well: American agriculture de facto wastes a lot of resources in the production of meat. We do things like feed grain to cattle to fatten them up. The historical value to humans of raising sheep and cattle is that they can eat grass and turn that into usable protein. Thus they not only do not compete with humans for food but they turn land and plants that are essentially useless to us (food-wise) into usable protein. Feeding them grain actually just pisses away resources. Humans can eat grain just fine and get adequate nutrition from it. The book makes the point that one hamburger equals many bowls of grain not fed to people (I want to say something like 39 bowls of grain, but it has been a lot of years since I last read the book).

So there is a great deal we can do to eat lower on the food chain, to raise livestock in a way that is less of a burden, etc. There is enormous room there for improving quality of life for everyone without anyone having to go hungry over it.

I also recall seeing an article many years ago about food production in a desert climate where they did experiments and figured out the size (and shape, etc) of a dirt drainage basin to create and what kind of soil to use such that plants could be kept alive using local rain instead of piping in water. Each plant got its own individual drainage area that collected water in one corner and the plant was in that deepest corner. Too big of a drainage basin and the stored water stands too long and you get root rot and the like. Too small and the plant dies of dehydration.

So there really are still huge untapped possibilities for improving our ability to feed people within the natural resources available. A bigger part of the problem is educating people and getting buy-in. If we, as a society, want to do this, logistically, it can be done. The logistics is relatively easy to conquer compared to the politics.
posted by Michele in California at 11:48 AM on June 19 [2 favorites]


Although Mr. Roquette and I do not consume pork, we've been active in efforts to make agribusiness treat pigs more humanely. He grew up on a small family farm. I am pretty much a city person, but lived a time in Rural Mexico.
I also lived in Bosnia for a time. The meat was better in both Bosnia and Mexico.

I was delighted to see the little piglets right by their mother on a clean mat.

In the U.S. gestation crates are still very common for pigs. They live in smelly barns and are mistreated in numerous ways. Pigs have sensitive noses. They are highly intelligent and sensitive animals. If people are going to eat them, they should be treating them better.

Same goes for cows.

If you are going to eat an animal, have the decency to make its life bearable.

I don't think these reforms will happen in the U.S. anytime soon.

It's good to know antibiotics can be taken out of animal's feed with no bad results.
I want it to happen in the U.S.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:33 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]


Hi - I'm the author of the article that's being discussed. These comments are super-smart and I'm especially grateful for the Europeans commenting on the regulatory details within the EU. I just wanted to say hello and that I'm happy to answer any questions if there are any. Antibiotic use, in ag and elsewhere, has been my primary topic as a journo for a bunch of years (book, blog, stories) and I'm always prepared to geek out about it.
posted by marynmck at 8:11 PM on June 19 [10 favorites]


So, the Dutch minister of agriculture, Gerda Verburg, decided to be bold. [...] With their buy-in, she developed a tough new policy: No more preventive dosing. Antibiotics after a veterinary inspection only. And farmers would be expected to cut their use severely: by 20 percent in one year, and 50 percent in three.
Unfortunately everything is politicized in the U.S., to a degree that drives out fact and reason. It is entirely too easy to predict what would happen if an Obama appointee tried this. If the First Lady, in an essentially private capacity, can make half the country freak out simply by suggesting that kids get something to eat and drink besides Doritos and Big Gulps, imagine what a formal government policy proposal like this affecting farms would do.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:08 AM on June 20


MonkeyToes- Judging by your stories I thought the last thing you needed was MORE pigs?

marynmck - I've been tyring to narrow the whole superbug thing down to a brief summary for friends who don't have the time/inclination to read about it. Do you think it's a fair statement to say:
The medical community is trying to cope with the problem in three main ways: reforming antibiotic us in agriculture, improving hospital infection control and abx Rx practice, and finally by facilitating new antimicrobial drugs in the research/approval pipeline?

Of those, which do you think is the most important? (I'd assume the agriculture one?) Do you see any chance of the US moving from its current "voluntary program" to more enforcable standards like the EU? (Side question: do you know if TATFAR is actually accomplishing anything meaningful or is it just another bureaucratic backwater?)
posted by Wretch729 at 8:09 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


This NPR piece from 2012 focuses on Denmark, which apparently clamped down on antibiotic use even before the Netherlands did. Be curious to see how the rest of Europe is trending.

Denmark: Three Deaths from Drug-Resistant “Pig MRSA”
posted by homunculus at 3:57 PM on June 22




"I've been tyring to narrow the whole superbug thing down to a brief summary for friends who don't have the time/inclination to read about it. Do you think it's a fair statement to say:
The medical community is trying to cope with the problem in three main ways: reforming antibiotic us in agriculture, improving hospital infection control and abx Rx practice, and finally by facilitating new antimicrobial drugs in the research/approval pipeline?

Of those, which do you think is the most important?"
posted by Wretch729 at 8:09 AM on June 20
That's a good summary. Of course there's nuances, right? Reforming antibiotic Rxing is more of a primary-care issue than a hospital one (though in hospitals there's certainly a move to try to clamp down on keeping the last-resort drugs out of use til REALLY needed). There are studies that show 40-50% of primary care Rx-ing is unnecessary. But otherwise yes. As to which is more important: Hard to say. I would nominate the ag issue just because it's so huge (more than 70% of antibiotics in the US, by weight, per year) and so opaque (almost no data about what is being used, almost no surveillance on the resistant bugs emerging). But at the same time, the most extensively resistant bacteria right now (CRE, MDR-TB etc.) are not ag-related, so you can't discount the medical side either.
posted by marynmck at 8:10 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


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