Ethical dilemma of food policies, marketing claims and choices

Are increased morbidity, mortality and carbon footprint an acceptable outcome?


Dennis Erpelding, Feedstuffs 

Nov 20, 2019


We live in an amazing time when we can source and consume food from around the world. The food choices include organic, free-range, slow-grow, GMO-free or raised without antibiotics. Farmers can leverage the use of innovative technologies, biotechnology and productivity products to increase yield. This evolving ability of consumers to have choice in their food selection and of farmers in their production practices is phenomenal. Yet, it does create ethical challenges and questions with the impact of some production choices -- are increased morbidity, mortality and carbon footprint an acceptable outcome?


For farmers and those in the food supply chain to deliver the choices that consumers desire, there are often trade-offs one must make as it relates to animal care, carbon footprint and economics. The trade-offs can create ethical questions and dilemma? How does a farmer, veterinarian, company or consumer view the potential impact of decisions required?


As one considers the ethical aspects, let’s note and assume all want the best possible animal care and the lowest carbon footprint.  And importantly, that farmers take their stewardship responsibility very seriously and will do everything within their means to provide for the care of their animals and produce food in the most sustainable manner. This stewardship approach includes minimizing the food animal contribution to antimicrobial resistance risks. The past decades through the adoption of best practices farmers and animal caretakers have dramatically improved the ability to care for their food animals via biosecurity measures and health management and nutrition management programs. 


However, reality means that to provide for certain food policies, marketing claims and choices some decisions must be made. Let’s consider two examples and key questions for the decision-making process.


Raised without antibiotics ...


Minimal carbon footprint ...


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