If the vegan market makes up 2% of the local food market, a whopping 98% of South Africans are eating animal protein and are ingesting antibiotics daily, warns Angus McIntosh, owner of Farmer Angus.
McIntosh, a former Goldman Sachs trader turned farmer, is concerned that conventional animal protein production depends on the widespread use of antibiotics.
He says, “Ninety percent of antibiotics issued by the pharmaceutical companies are consumed by animals in the confinement feeding animal operations where almost all the meat you eat is produced.”
Farmer Angus, as he is affectionately known, farms on 126 hectares of irrigated pasture at the Spier Wine Estate near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. He only follows regenerative agriculture principles “to renew and not destroy our land”.
There are two reasons for the use of antibiotics, says McIntosh.
‘Humanity facing great threat’
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently described antimicrobial resistance as one of the greatest threats facing humanity. Antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective as drug-resistance spreads globally, leading to more difficult to treat infections and death.
In an earlier statement by the WHO, it was recommended that farmers and the global food industry stop using antibiotics routinely to promote growth and prevent disease in healthy animals.
“As a regenerative livestock farmer, I know that if animals roam freely in uncrowded outdoor spaces and eat only grass, there is little need to administer antibiotics,” says McIntosh.
He adds that without knowing it, healthy people are consuming antibiotics daily.
Consumers must protect themselves
McIntosh references a landmark study by the Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (Gram) which found that more than 1.2 million people – and potentially millions more – are said to have died in 2019 as a direct result of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. The study was published in The Lancet.
Urgent action is therefore needed to prevent a predicted 10 million deaths each year by 2050. It’s estimated that by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.
McIntosh says there is a way consumers can protect themselves. “Know where your food comes from. Eat grass-fed and grass-finished beef as well as eggs. Egg producers do not administer routine antibiotics because they want to keep their hens alive for as long as possible and constant use of antibiotics weakens them.
“Eating meat should not be your only source of protein, but when you do choose meat, choose a farmer that you can trust to produce beef that is good for your health and good for the environment. We are, after all, all farmers by proxy.”