"A team of researchers from Arizona bought meat and poultry in five cities across the United States, tested them for bacteria, and found this: 47 percent of the samples contained the very common pathogen Staphylococcus aureus, and 96 percent of those isolates were resistant to at least one antibiotic. Of more concern: 52 percent of those staph isolates were resistant to at least three antibiotics that are commonly used in both veterinary and human medicine.
That is: Roughly one in four packages of meat and poultry from across the US contained multi-drug resistant staph.
Here are the details: A team from the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Flagstaff, Ariz., led by Lance B. Price, Ph.D., bought 136 packages of ground beef, chicken breasts and thighs, pork chops and ground pork, and ground turkey, under 80 brand names, in 26 supermarkets in Flagstaff, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. They analyzed the meat for the presence of staph, because staph has been found in the past in several food-animal species. They did a second round of testing to define which strain of staph was on the meat, and then they did a third round, testing the isolates against five important classes of antibiotics, to see whether the staph they had found was resistant.
Which it was. Very. The antibiotics to which the staph was resistant included: penicillin and ampicillin; erythromycin; tetracycline; oxacillin, the more modern form of the drug methicillin; the drug combination quinupristin/dalfopristin, known as Synercid; the fluoroquinolones levofloxacin (Levaquin) and ciprofloxacin (Cipro); and the last-resort drugs for very serious staph infections vancomycin and daptomycin. One staph isolate was resistant to nine different antibiotics.
Among the types of meat tested, turkey carried the most resistance, with 77 percent of the meat samples showing at least some; that was followed by pork (42 percent), chicken (41 percent) and beef (37 percent). Interestingly, it wasn’t all the same staph. Though there was a great diversity of staph types, each animal species seemed to carry mostly one sequence type or strain of staph: ST1 in pigs, ST5 in chickens and ST398 in turkey.
I spoke to Lance Price about his team’s work. “This is the first study to show that antibiotic-resistant staph is highly prevalent in the American food supply,” he told me.
He added: “There’s an important second point: We found that each of the meat and poultry types had their own distinctive staph on them. That provides strong evidence that food animals were the primary source of the resistant staph. The source wasn’t human contamination of the meat at slaughter, or when it was packaged for retail sale.”
And yet the government is still trying to snuff the small farmers out. Why is it that our clean meat is considered "more dangerous" than CAFO meat?