Oversupply of meat drives antimicrobial resistance

Sunday September 22 2019

Meat on display in a butchery.

Meat on display in a butchery. Researchers say that consumers are increasingly becoming health conscious and would therefore not hesitate to go for safe and high quality food commodities. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

LEOPOLD OBI
By LEOPOLD OBI
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An unprecedented rise in the consumption of meat and dairy products across Africa, India, China and Latin America is driving antimicrobial resistance across the four regions as farmers use antimicrobials in production to meet the soaring demand.

A study released last week in Switzerland also shows that meat consumption in Africa has risen by more than half while in Asia and Latin America it is up by two-thirds.

Led by Thomas Van Boeckel, SNF assistant professor of Health Geography and Policy at ETH Zurich, the team of researchers recently published a map of antimicrobial resistance in animals in low- and middle-income countries in the journal Science.

The team observed that while low and middle income countries experience unprecedented economic growth, residents in those regions grow wealthier and therefore prefer meat.

To meet the demand, livestock farmers have increased the use of antimicrobials to treat and prevent infections in animals raised in crowded conditions and to increase weight gain, as they seek to improve profitability.

“This excessive and indiscriminate use of antimicrobials has serious consequences: The proportion of bacteria resistant to antimicrobials is rapidly increasing around the world. Drugs are losing their efficacy, with important consequences for the health of animals but also potentially for humans,” the report says.

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A separate study launched in Nairobi on the same day, says East Africans are now wary of buying beefs products from locally raised livestock over food safety concerns.

Locally raised animals

The study shows that only 46 out of 100 people in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia would buy more if the animals were raised locally.

Over 80 per cent of the people surveyed said they are keen on food safety and this had a huge influence on their purchasing decisions – including willing to pay more for humanely produced meat.

The survey conducted by World Animal Protection which interviewed respondents from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia noted that meat consumers place a high premium on meat that is produced without antibiotics and is safely transported to the market for slaughter.

Researchers say that consumers are increasingly becoming health conscious and would therefore not hesitate to go for safe and high quality food commodities.