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How Antibiotics Created the Chicken Industry — And Turned It Into a Source of Lethal Infections

Story at-a-glance -

  • Antibiotic resistance is a vastly underestimated health threat; an estimated 23,000 Americans die each year from drug-resistant infections, including drug-resistant sexually transmitted diseases
  • Agriculture plays a major role in this; in the U.S., four times as many antibiotics are used in livestock as are used in human medicine
  • When animals are given antibiotics, it causes unnatural growth by altering their gut microbiome. In the process, some of those gut bacteria become antibiotic-resistant. Contaminated meat can then become a source of drug-resistant infections
  • Historically, chickens were scrawny little birds that no one thought to consume as a primary meal on a regular basis. Antibiotics changed this, when it was discovered the drug made the birds grow twice as large, twice as fast
  • Targeted breeding, creating a more full-breasted bird, and federal dietary guidelines that called for reducing saturated fat found in beef fueled consumption of chicken

By Dr. Mercola

Maryn McKenna is an investigative journalist and senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University who has written a number of health-related books. Her latest, “Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats,” exposes many aspects of the chicken industry that most people are completely unaware of.


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