In the course of reporting this week's feature on meat-promoter and regulation-hater Charlie Arnot, I heard a lot of arguments for and against the use of antibiotics to raise piglets to fat
to afford a pound of meat. And if federal regulators do what they want
to do about cutting out non-therapeutic use of antibiotics, there's at
least one study that says the resulting changes to the meat industry
will end up in higher prices at the butcher shop.
A 2001 study from Oklahoma State University's College of Veterinary Medicine -- and the most recent I could find on the subject -- found that "the retail price of bacon and pork chops would rise significantly if producers were unable to use antimicrobials in livestock feed as growth promotants."
This is partially based on the medicine's impact on uniform animal growth rates and overall health. If agribusiness wants to keep doing things the way they have been, I'd think that this argument would resonate more with consumers than just sticking to the message that things are fine no matter how many people get sick or die -- I'm talking to you, Smithfield Farms.
Then again, maybe the companies just don't want to admit that no animal could normally survive their farming process.