The Story Behind Antibiotic Stewardship on Your Operation

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Telling your story – your side of the story – is not a new idea, but it has become more widely adopted in the agriculture community over the last few years. Farmers, ranchers and veterinarians across the United States find themselves under increasing pressure about the practices used to produce the food consumers enjoy.

Conversations about the food system, online and in person, continue to become more prevalent in our daily lives. As leaders in the beef industry, we have the responsibility to connect with people and provide information for the movable middle searching for credible resources. Unfortunately, we can’t connect with everyone, and it is important to learn how to recognize a genuine critical question vs. a troll picking a fight.

Whether it’s in person or online, many people can spot inauthenticity from a mile away. Stay comfortable with your talking points and have fun showing people what you do and telling them why you do it. Do not feel obligated to talk about any topics you are not comfortable discussing. It is likely you will get tough questions and you should be prepared. You do not need to be an expert and it is okay to say, “I don’t know, but I will look into it and find some answers.”

If you get a question about a hot topic, it is acceptable to say, “I’m not an expert in this area, but this is my understanding.” You then can refer the person to an industry expert or articles that may provide a full explanation.

The opportunity to engage with consumers is fragile and must be given great care. It only takes one bad interaction with a consumer to sour their perception of the entire industry. In agriculture, we often speak in jargon that consumers may not understand. Consumers are smart, they just aren’t as familiar with our industry as we are. We are the experts and have a responsibility to connect in a way in which they can relate. Below are some examples of talking points to connect with consumers on the topic of antibiotics. These are provided for guidance and can be modified in any way to suit your personal story.

  • Antibiotics are used in animal medicine to prevent, treat or control disease, which is important to animal and human safety.
  • With the help of veterinarians, ranchers can prevent the spread of illness and keep their animals more comfortable when they are sick. Healthy animals create healthy and safe food.
  • When I get sick, I go to the doctor, and I’m sometimes prescribed an antibiotic. We do the same with our animals. When an animal gets sick (which is a very normal, natural occurrence), a farmer and their veterinarian carefully evaluate if antibiotics are necessary.
  • Choosing not to treat a sick animal is inhumane. As part of our ongoing commitment to animal health and welfare, we administer antibiotics according to the product label directions or prescription. Through judicious use, we protect both animals and humans, and protect the efficacy of antibiotics that have been rigorously tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • You don’t have to worry that antibiotic residues are in your food. The FDA requires a withdrawal period for the animal’s body to process the medicine. The U.S. Department of Agriculture randomly tests and monitors meat before it goes to grocery stores.
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and super bugs are a threat to human and animal health, the global economy, and national and global security. The Center for Disease Control’s One Health initiative is an effort to protect the efficacy of antibiotics and recognizes that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment. Combatting AMR will require a strategic One Health approach from the human and animal health industries.

The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (NIAA) has been fortunate to collaborate with the Beef Checkoff to provide producers and veterinarians with resources to communicate with people outside of agriculture about the responsible use of antibiotics within our industry. NIAA has developed a free communication toolkit to use when communicating online to consumers. The toolkit is intended to generate ideas to find your voice and tell your story. You may find it here: https://www.animalagriculture.org/resources/beef-producer-abx-toolkit/.

 

Written by: Morgan J. Young, Director of Communications and Outreach, National Institute for Animal Agriculture
Source: Nebraska Cattleman October 2021 Issue

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