Daily Archives: March 20, 2014

Have Farm Animals Evolved with Us?

At the very beginning of class, we read an article by Wang that talked about how dogs have evolved with human as they are domesticated early on in their evolutionary history. In a recent class, we also discussed the differences in nutrition content between the meat we consume today and meat we used to consume decades ago. I was wondering if farm animals have also evolved with us as the domestication of chicken, cows, and pigs have definitely changed their physiology over the years.

In a NYTimes article, author pointed out that animals that are raised in modern industrial farms are bred to produce the most amount of edible meat. For example, chickens are bred to have gigantic, disproportionate breast because human like to consume chicken breasts. It is a desirable trait for human as meat consumers, however, it is detrimental to chicken’s health because large breast in no way benefit chicken’s survival or reproduction in their natural habitant. Human have genetically changed the way animals are raised in industrial farms, as a result, chicken eat less while grow bigger. However, physiology is not the only thing that has changed in modern farm animal population. Due to the highly regulated farm industry, farm animals tend to become more and more homogenized and loaded with antibiotics, consequently, they are a lot more vulnerable to diseases compared to their wild counterparts. Tyson Foods, which is called “America’s meat factory” that monopolizes the production of chicken, is able to bring chicken’s retail price from $6.48 per pond to $1.57 per pound, as a result of the mass production.

I think this phenomenon is best summarized by the author’s comment that industrialized faring “privatizes gains but socializes the health and environmental cost”.

Are Antibiotics Making Us Obese?

In the Scientific America article we read for class: Swapping Germs: Should Fecal Transplants ecome Routine for Debilitating Diarrhea, we learned about the importance of maintaining a healthy population of microorganisms in our gut. In previous classes, we also talked about the increasing health threat created by the overuse of antibiotics: the emerging new generation of bacteria that are resistant to all existing antibiotics.

I came across this NYTimes article that discusses the correlation between antibiotics abuse, obesity and microbiome in human gut. Essentially, it was discovered in 1948 that antibiotics makes young animals pack on weight easily. Since then, antibiotics have been used unethically as superfood to produce cheap meat. Another favor that antibiotics did for mass produced farm animals is that, they are able to stay inside for their entire life because they can now resist the terrible living conditions in animal farms while packing on more meat. The questions is, can antibiotics do the same thing to us? Could the American obesity epidemic be the result of our high consumption of antibiotics from both meat products and prescription pills?Despite of ethical limitations, an experiment was done on a group of children from Guatemala, while a doctor in Florida conducted similar experiment on a group of mentally challenged children. And just like they have expected, the children indeed grow larger just like farm animals. Although the exact causation of the weight gain from antibiotics is unknown, it is hypothezed that antibiotics can change the population of microorganisms in the gut and therefore change the metabolism of nutrients. As more studies are done on this particular subject, the correlation between microorganism population and human’s health and growth becomes more clearer.

Examining the history of antibiotics abuse not only reveals the health complications, but also sheds light on related ethical issues. While terminating the use of antibiotics from our lives all together is not realistic, we can choose to purchase farm raised, antibiotic-free meat product and try to find alternatives to all-purpose antibiotics in our prescription drugs.