Riots, Rage, and Resistance: A Brief History of How Antibiotics Arrived on the Farm

This essay originally appeared at ScientificAmerican.com. Reprinted here by permission.

In 1950, American farmers rejoiced at news from a New York laboratory: A team of scientists had discovered that adding antibiotics to livestock feed accelerated animals’ growth and cost less than conventional feed supplements. The news blew “the lid clear off the realm of animal nutrition,” crowed the editors of one farm magazine. Farmers and scientists alike “gasp[ed] with amazement, almost afraid to believe what they had found.” “Never again,” vowed another writer, would farmers suffer the “severe protein shortages” of the past. Continue reading

On That Date, No. 14

“Cincinnati is the greatest place for hogs in the world; and they have the greatest method of raising them here of any other place which we know of. A man will turn out a bevy of young pigs . . . in December say . . . and they will run at large in the streets until the next November — when he goes out to look up his pork. Continue reading

On That Date, No. 13

“My friend arranged for me to visit Beltsville, Maryland, where the Department of Agriculture maintains the world’s largest experiment station devoted to plant and animal research. For a solid week I explored, . . . peer[ing] into laboratories where government geneticists are at work redesigning nature. Continue reading