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Home  |  The Future of the Family Farm  |  Antibiotics on the Farm

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Denmark Vows to Kick the Habit

If you get on a plane and cross the Atlantic, you'll find a whole country of farmers that seem to be proving that American industry executives are wrong.

The chickens are spun....
and then flung into crates on the truck. In America, they usually grab the chickens by hand, but it's all mechanized in Denmark. Click photos to enlarge

Photos: Daniel Zwerdling

"Actually, most chickens now would be raised entirely without antibiotics," explains Henrik Wegener.

Wegener works for the Ministry of Agriculture, and he takes us to the meat section in a supermarket in Copenhagen. And meat's cheap. Chickens are around a dollar a pound. But then Wegener reads the label and it says it tells America and the rest of the world a better way to farm.

"It's standard labeling. You can see, now that you recognize the Danish, produced without antibiotic growth promoters. This one says, 'Produced without antibiotic growth promoters.' You cannot find any one that doesn't say that," says Wegener.

Five years ago, says Wegener, he could not have dreamed that this day would come so soon in Denmark. "No, not at all. Not at all."

One of the most surprising parts of this story is not just that Danish farmers have pretty much kicked the chemical habit; it's the fact that executives and their food industry pushed them to do it. Executives saw studies that antibiotics in farms were causing health problems. They worried that consumers might stop buying meat. So a few years ago, they banned most uses of antibiotics on farms.

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