The Consumer’s Union “Meat on Drugs” recent consumer poll showed that a majority of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics. That claim brings to light an important issue, according to Terry Fleck, executive director, The Center for Food Integrity.

“It’s important to note that meat from all animals prescribed antibiotics arrives to the market antibiotic-free because of the time elapsed since the animal’s last treatment. Their responsible use, following rigorous Food and Drug Administration guidelines, helps alleviate illness and unnecessary suffering, with the goal of raising healthy animals and producing quality products for consumers,” Fleck observes.

“Beyond that, for far too long, many in this discussion have resorted to attacking those who don’t share their beliefs – an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality. The polarizing debate is unfortunate, because what we need is an informed discussion of food system issues that will allow us to meet the growing global demand for food,” he comments.

Of course, food choice must be respected. “We each have the right to purchase food that is safe, wholesome, meets our family’s needs and aligns with our values. Variety helps keep food costs low, allowing access to nutritious and affordable food for all families, regardless of income,” Fleck says.

Calls for radical changes to the food system, however, risk dangerous unintended consequences.

“If forced to rely on less productive production practices, some will go hungry. If we ‘slow’ food production to the pace of the 1950s, as some are suggesting, 151 million Americans would go hungry each and every day. That’s every man, woman and child in the nine most populated states,” Fleck points out.

He continues: “In 1950, one farmer produced enough food to feed 30 people. Since then, largely due to the responsible introduction of technology, including the use of antibiotics to care for livestock, one farmer can now produce enough food to feed 155 people. Because of these agricultural advancements, the United States now has the world’s most productive food system.”

World Wildlife Fund and other organizations are now actively promoting intensive agriculture in order to double the number of calories produced on the land by 2050 to preserve our ecosystem and biodiversity.

“And with a global population that is expected to exceed nine billion people by 2050, technology will continue to play a vital role in producing the food needed to feed them. In fact, projections from the United Nations say we need to double food production by mid-century to meet those needs. Norman Borlaug said that means we have to produce more food in the next four decades than the previous 10,000 years combined. The only way we can meet that need is through the responsible use of technology and innovation, the same way agriculture has met the needs of the U.S. population since 1950,” Fleck emphasizes.