CBSMiami (CBSMiami) – There has been an explosion in the United State of people wanting to know where their food comes from and what’s in it.
Trish Sheldon is and an advocate for transparency in food labeling and the co-leader of the campaign – GMO Free Florida. But it’s not just genetically modified organisms in food, in particular chickens and eggs, that are on the consumer radar, she said. Identifying everything from what is pasture raised to antibiotic free has many customers on the search for answers.READ MORE: Presumptive Monkeypox Case In Broward County Under Investigation
That led CBS 4 to a visit at Scooby’s Farm in Davie. It is a picture postcard setting. A small family farm. Motty Katzir said it’s all about what is not on the menu for his livestock and birds: no chemicals, no soy, no GMO’s and no antibiotics.
“I call them out of control chickens,” said Katzir as his chickens that roam his property.
At Scoogy’s ‘free to roam’, a label consumers see more and more often, means just that.
“They are taking sand baths, they are hanging in the sun,” said Katzir.
Katzir showed CBS 4 that other than the baby chicks, his chickens; the broilers and egg layers are not exposed to artificial light and that they dine when they are hungry. Most importantly, he said, they are not fed or exposed to drugs making headlines: antibiotics. He is not alone in his concern over the use and potential impact of antibiotics in poultry.
“When I think about antibiotics in the food production system, I think of an overuse that’s happening,” said Susan Grooters, an Executive Committee member of the Washington D.C. based coalition Keep Antibiotics Working.
Mimimalizing human exposure to antibiotics is a priority, she said, given increasing concerns over antibiotic resistance in animals and people and what some consider a global threat of antibiotic resistant infections.
“We’re looking at a public health crisis, that’s what the World Health Organization calls it,” said Grooters, “What happens when we overuse antibiotics in food animal production is they can cause antibiotic resistance to occur. And bacteria that can then get onto our food supply, get into our kitchens, on our chicken and in our meat. We are then at risk of catching infections that can no longer be treated with antibiotics because they’ve been overused on the farm.”
Concern by consumers and some companies are fueling a growing search to know and identify what’s in the food they are buying. Navigating the world of labels is not always simple.
“It’s very difficult to know what you eat anymore. You buy in the store and the store tells you its a lamb, it’s a chicken, cage-free, roam-free, it’s so many names and so many definitions that I think you have to come with a lawyer and a rabbi to figure out what it says,” said Katzir with a laugh.
Sheldon understands how confusing it can be for consumers to interpret the sea of labels that await them, but she welcomes them.
“Labeling is extremely important,” said Sheldon.
Her top choices? She looks for products that carry multiple certifications.READ MORE: Lassiter, Taylor Lead Inter Miami Past Red Bulls 2-0
“When I’m looking for chicken and eggs, I want to look for the non-GMO project label and that’s because they have stringent research and chemical testing that they do. I especially want to look for the USDA organic symbol”
Some consumers assume that when they see the label saying ‘fresh’ or ‘natural’ that it means it is organic, free of pesticides or gmo’s and antibiotics. But that is not necessarily the case, according to Sheldon.
In reviewing labels CBS 4 News found that many consumers were impressed with product carrying the label that says “no hormones added”. But fact is that the FDA has banned the use of hormones in poultry, so companies that advertise “no hormones” are just following the law and must include fine print alluding to that.
Sheldon said she also looks for indications of how the poultry was raised.
“I look for pasture raised, free roaming, when possible.”
In the end, labeling experts say there has been a steady cascade of change in the retail, restaurant and farming world in taking steps to minimalize consumers exposure to antibiotics in poultry and offer labels on how the poultry was raised.
From suppliers to supermarkets, restaurants and fast food chains, McDonalds is the latest, and to some industry observers, the most significant, to jump in recently and announce plans to restrict and reduce the use of antibiotics that are important to humans in it’s chickens over the next two years.
“I thought it was a long time coming. McDonalds can drive the food industry, especially the fast-food industry. And when you are that large of a buyer and that large of an industry, change will happen across the entire landscape not just at McDonalds but you’ll have ripple effects that affect all of chicken production,” said Grooters.
In fact, Costco announced the same just days later.
“Costco making the decision to reduce antibiotics in their poultry lines really impacts the home consumer”, said Grooters who was recently appointed by the Secretary of the USDA as the consumer representative for the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.
Grooters added that change is increasingly driven by consumers and that industry is listening.
CBS4 News reached out to the National Chicken Council which shared this perspective in a statement.
“The vast majority of these antibiotics are never used in humans. We have proactively and voluntarily taken steps toward finding alternative ways to control disease while reducing antibiotic use. While antibiotics that are important to human medicine are minimally used when raising chickens, by December 2016 under FDA guidance, these antibiotics will be labeled for use in food animals only to prevent disease and treat sick birds.”MORE NEWS: Man Held Without Bond In Killing Of Baby, Babysitter In Coral Springs
CBS4 News would like to thank and acknowledge the participation of the Miami- Dade College Culinary Institute, Tuyo Restaurant and Fresco California Bistro.