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New England Farmer says “Buying Local is Best”

November 9, 2009

CONCORD, N.H. - E. coli and salmonella: words that have made it into more news headlines lately. The recent recalls of tainted beef here in New England have Derek Owen, a small family farmer in Hopkinton, asking the question: "Do you know where your food is coming from?" He says most people do not, and he would like to see that change.

Owen, who is also a state representative for Merrimack County District 4, says the reason we're seeing more cases of food recalls is because farming practices have changed dramatically over the last fifty years. He says corporations have taken over the marketplace, and with that has come the over-crowding of animals being raised for food.

"It's primarily because of your factory farming, where you have such a large concentration of animals, that you're more apt to have unclean situations."

He says the industry often seems more concerned with the bottom line than with the health of the consumer. He encourages New Englanders to seek out farmer's markets and to visit local farms to see how the food is produced. He says buying locally not only supports local agriculture, it supports the local economy in general.

Jan Pendlebury, senior field associate with Pew Environment Group, says animals on smaller farms are more likely to have enough space, which means farmers can give individual treatment to animals that are ill. She says a big issue for people eating factory-farmed meats is the amount of antibiotics given indiscriminately to the animals because of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.

"Unfortunately, when farmers decided to move the operation into these confined animal-feeding operations, they believed that if they gave low doses of antibiotics to the animals, that would ward off any potential disease, and we know that that's not true."

Pendlebury says the over-use of antibiotics in farm animals is linked to drug-resistant microbes that can infect humans. Currently, there is legislation to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed. Proponents of antibiotic use say however that it keeps the animals in the food supply safe for human consumption.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA