Sadly, it's not news that many farm animals are pumped full of drugs, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and steroids, as a way of keeping them healthy until slaughter. While, in theory, only minimal traces of these substances should make their way into your burger or sausages, last year the US Food and Drug Administration found beef samples that contained five times the legal drug limit. The World Health Organisation later warned that the overuse of antibiotics in meat could cause antimicrobial resistance in humans.
Given the huge global demand for meat, it's unlikely that farms will ever become substance-free. But one organic farm in Sorens, Switzerland has come up with another way of keeping cattle healthy, without the need for drugs. In collaboration with vets from the University of Bern, farmers here will start treating their cows using acupuncture.
According the local district's agriculture office, classes will be given to the university's veterinary students by an animal acupuncture specialist. Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese treatment whereby fine needles are inserted in certain parts of the body to relieve pain and prevent illness, will be used to keep the cows healthy. The experiment forms part of a wider project at the university to reduce the amount of antibiotics used in milk production and is a first for the Swiss agriculture industry.
The initial treatments will be carried out on a herd of 80 Holstein cows in May. Let's hope the cows aren't afraid of needles.