CADE Collaborates to Reduce the Overuse of Antibiotics in Farming

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Overuse of antibiotics in animals and people is causing the emergence of antibiotic resistant 'superbugs' against which antibiotics are no longer effective.

“We’re facing a worldwide public health crisis where antibiotics are becoming ineffective in treating infections because they are overused in both people and animals,” said CADE Board member and beef farmer Ken Jaffe, M.D. “Our goal is to reduce antibiotic use in people and animals without sacrificing wellbeing, so we can keep these important medicines effective for treating sick people.”

In April 2019, the food purchasers of four Tompkins County School Districts (Dryden, Groton, Ithaca and Trumansburg) in New York’s Southern Tier region took the unprecedented step of requiring vendors that bid on their beef contracts to meet new specifications that reduce on-farm use of antibiotics while promoting animal welfare. This specification uses the market as a tool to incentivize farmers to advance antibiotic stewardship beyond current FDA and USDA regulation.

The new procurement requires bidding vendors to work with farmers who employ on-farm management practices that lower the risk of infection in cattle. It also requires them to identify individual animals that are at high risk of infection, and selectively treat only those individuals rather than administering antibiotics to whole groups.

According to Julia Van Loon, President of Slate Foods who was awarded the Tompkins County School District food bid, “We now purchase cattle from farms committed to treating only those animals at high risk for infection and not administering blanket antibiotics to herds. We applaud Tompkins County for creating a spec that requires prudent antibiotic policies for sourcing beef for their farm-to-school lunch program for 2019-20. It’s nice to know that we were awarded the bid and can help support their values. It’s healthier for people, the planet, and animals alike.”

“We’d like to see school districts throughout New York State — and potentially across the nation — replicate the same food buying policy,” said CADE executive director Phoebe Schreiner. “It will not only have important public health implications for our communities, it will also reward beef producers who use improved antibiotic practices. For those who don’t, it offers a carrot to move in that direction.”

The campaign worked closely in tandem with the Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Cornell’s Master of Public Health Program, the evaluation partner for the CEE Tompkins County Farm-to-School Project, and Tompkins County School officials to set the new policy.

School district food purchasers interested in learning more about how they can replicate the procurement specification can visit CADE’s website at http://www.cadefarms.org/services.