The production of animal products has more leeway than we can imagine. The use of pesticides, growth hormones, and antibiotics is a common practice and has a deep impact on consumer’s health and development. So what makes these unwanted ingredients good or bad? Let’s find out.
The use of antibiotics on farmed animals such as cows and chickens has been a hot-button topic for debate. The overuse of antibiotics is often seen as the culprit behind “superbugs”. Superbugs are drug-resistant bacteria that are passed on to humans via meat and when it’s passed on, the results can be disastrous.
What are antibiotics used for? The same thing we use them for, to treat illnesses and eradicate harmful bacteria. Antibiotics are fed regularly to cows, hens, chickens, pigs, and even fish to keep them fighting illnesses due to unsanitary conditions they are kept in and help them reach market weight faster or produce more milk, eggs, etc. In some cases, like in the chicken industry, giving feed laced with antibiotics is a standard practice to make their bodies grow unnaturally fast.
According to this study, the use of antibiotics in animal feed, which is known to contribute to growing antibiotic resistance in the environment, will increase by 82 percent in India by 2030. India is the world’s 5th largest meat producer and a major exporter of fish and shrimp. But did you know that Indian shrimp has been banned from 4 countries as a result of antibiotic residues being found?
Spraying animal feed with pesticides has been standard practice in the meat and dairy industry for decades now. They protect the crop from insects, weeds, and fungi which gives each farm a greater yield than they would otherwise. Oftentimes, these fruits, vegetables, or grass aren’t washed before being fed to the animals.
When you consume meat or dairy, you might be consuming trace amounts of this pesticide yourself. According to the WHO pesticides are potentially toxic to humans and can lead to the development of both acute and chronic illnesses when consumed in certain quantities. Cheap pesticides tend to linger in the soil for years, continuing to affect the food. Most developed countries have banned these chemicals however in India, many farms still use cheap pesticides to get by.
Growth hormones control an animal’s growth rate, how much food they’ll need, milk production or egg cycle, and the production of fat and muscle. Growth hormones accelerate body weight at an unnaturally faster rate so that they can be sold for meat in a shorter period of time. E.g. A chicken on a farm reaches a weight of 2-4 kg in a span of 40 days whereas it may take 80 days to reach that weight naturally.
The problem? The hormones find their way into the meat and dairy products via diffusion. Being mammals ourselves, the human body can also respond to the growth stimulants in these hormones. This can cause abnormal growth in prepubescent children, in many cases pushing them into puberty earlier. It can also affect the bodily processes of adults, especially if the hormone is something humans also naturally produce.
There isn’t enough evidence to link the presence of growth hormones in food to health problems. This is because a lot of the time, the hormones animals are injected with are ones both they and humans naturally produce. Science has yet to deliver a verdict however reducing your consumption of meat and dairy is probably for the better.