Lexicon of Sustainability
Watchword: Antibiotic-Free

Watchword: Antibiotic-Free

To draw attention to the best and brightest ideas in sustainability, the Lexicon of Sustainability's Food List project defines the words that are integral to a healthy, transparent, and accountable food system. Each week, we explore a new word through artwork, films, recipes, and written works. See all Food List words here. 

Antibiotic-Free: Nearly 80% of the antibiotics in this country aren’t used on people. They’re used on animals. Animals we eat. And most of these animals aren’t even sick. 

“It’s not natural for an animal to be in tightly confined quarters,” cattleman Mike Callicrate explains. “As a result, they’re subject to disease due to stress and the environment they’re in. And that disease is contagious, so they feed sub-therapeautic antibiotics to keep these animals from getting sick, but these also have the effect of increasing performance and weight gain, so it’s a crutch for them.”

When animals are given antibiotics—even when they don’t need them—they gain weight. And since a fat pig is worth more than a skinny pig, using antibiotics—even if an animal isn’t sick—increases a farmer’s profits.

Except there’s a problem. The misuse of antibiotics encourages the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could be harmful to people. Plus, animals fed antibiotics create animal waste full of those very same antibiotics. This can contaminate our drinking water and ravage our ecosystems, which eventually allows these antibiotics to work their way back to people like you.

Title: Antibiotic Free
Featuring: Bill and Nicolette Niman, Founders
Location: Niman Ranch, Bolinas, CA

The Nimans' secret for “antibiotic-free” beef production is simple: fresh air, sunshine, and exercise make for healthy animals.

Nicolette Hahn Niman says, “Animals simply should not be kept in conditions that require continuous administration of antibiotics. This is not an ethical way to raise animals. More over, this so-called cheap food is food we cannot it is costing society dearly in the rise of more virulent diseases and the loss of our most potent weapons against infectious diseases, not to mention the increased threat of environmental contamination.”

Bill and Nicolette Niman believe “all farms and operations in the food chain should be transparent, including sharing their policies regarding the usage of antibiotics.”

Short film: "Thousand Hills" by The Perennial Plate

Watch this episode of The Perennial Plate to see how Thousand Hills Cattle Company strives to keep its cattle healthy for the community, the farmers' families, and for the livestock itself. 

Recipe: Pumpkin Curry by Chef Ann Cooper

Ann Cooper is an internationally recognized author, chef, educator, public speaker, and advocate of healthy food for all children. She is also the founder of Food Family Farming Foundation, a nonprofit organization created to empower schools to serve nutritious whole food to all students.

In honor of Halloween this week, enjoy this delicious Pumpkin Curry featuring coconut milk, fresh pumpkin, kale, and garbanzo beans. 

Why is ethical farming important to you? Tell us in the comments below, and follow us for more on antibiotic-free throughout the week.

For the past three years, the Lexicon of Sustainability has sought out the foremost practitioners of sustainability in food and farming to gain their insights and experiences on this important subject. What began as a photography project to spread their knowledge has grown to include short films, study guides, traveling shows, a book, and a website where people can add their own terms to this ever-evolving lexicon. See more at www.lexiconofsustainability.com.

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