Katie Couric's 3-minute 'factory farm' barrage

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The fact that she used the term “factory farm” or “factory farming” five times in a three-minute period probably showed her bias.

CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric left the confines of her New York City TV studio to visit an Iowa hog farm and ask some questions related to antibiotic use in livestock — and whether such use could be contributing to drug-resistant bacteria. The first of a two-part series aired Tuesday night.

Here’s an exchange between Couric and Liz Wagstrom, veterinarian and assistant vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board:

Couric: “Some people say giving animals antibiotics to prevent illiness or promote growth is like putting antibiotics in a child’s cereal. You know, save them so they’ll work when they’re really needed.”

Wagstrom: “I’d say that we do strategically place them. It’s not an all day, every pig gets antibiotics every day of its life.

Couric: “So you don’t think they’re being overused by farmers anywhere in this country?”

Wagstrom: “The vast majority of producers use them appropriately.”

Couric also interviewed some poultry plant or hatchery workers in Arkansas who reportedly became infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA. In the case of one worker, doctors had to try several drugs that usually work on this type of infection before finding one that saved his life.

“Public-health officials are concerned,” she reported. “If workers who handle animals are getting sick, what about the rest of us? Drug-resistant infections have skyrocketed over the past two decades, killing an estimated 70,000 Americans last year alone. It’s an emerging health crisis that scientists say is caused not only by the overuse of antibiotics in humans, but in livestock as well,” she said.

See the entire broadast. The broadcast runs 7 minutes, 37 seconds. There is one three-minute stretch where Couric makes five references to "factory farms" or "factory farming."




Watch CBS News Videos Online

Also, listen to a follow-up interview with Wagstrom on AgriTalk. Apparently, Couric glossed over many of the facts in her "investigative report."

Again, as with the ABC News “Nightline” piece two weeks ago, you have to look for the hidden clues of media bias. Certainly, Katie Couric’s liberal use of the term “factory farm” is one such clue. And what, exactly, does “factory farm” have to do with antibiotic resistance? If the threat of antibiotic resistance does exist, couldn’t it occur just as likely on a small farm as a large farm? I always go back to an article in the January 2004 Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy that the actual danger to human health from the use of antibiotics in food animals is small. “Although some antibiotics are used both in animals and humans, most of the resistance problem in humans has arisen from human use,” the authors wrote following an extensive literature review. In other words, Couric and others should be looking at the overuse of antibiotics in human medicine. Rather than traveling 1,000 miles from New York City to Dyersville, Iowa, Couric should have simply gone down the street to some of the doctors who live along Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue. But that assumes antibiotic resistance was the real agenda here.  – Tom Quaife, editor



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