Agribusiness and Antibiotics: A Market-Based Solution
Justifiable concerns about the welfare of animals raised for food are on the rise in the United States.1 The model of modern agribusiness aims at maximizing costefficiency, which has led to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals for growthpromotion and disease prevention purposes. This overuse inextricably diminishes animal welfare and puts human health at alarming risk.
In Part I, I explain the relationship between modern agribusiness and the use of antibiotics and explore some of the ways in which the commodification of farm
animals has necessitated the industry’s reliance on antibiotics for disease prevention. In addition, I show how these antibiotics practices have made disease more dangerous on factory farms. In Part II, I analyze recent regulatory approaches by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and examine NRDC v. FDA, FDA’s Guidance for Industry, and a recent citizen petition urging FDA to withdraw approval for the use of medically-important antibiotics in food animals. In Part III, I argue for a market-based approach as an alternative to regulation and discuss how the phenomenon of agency capture and the current political shift towards deregulation may impact the promulgation of rules addressing the overuse of antibiotics in food animals. Further, I critique other market-based approaches that have enjoyed moderate success. Finally, I propose an alternative model—a third party certification system that prioritizes animal welfare.