SUSANVILLE, Calif. — One of the biggest public health challenges of our time may not even be on your radar: antibiotic resistance. It happens when germs defeat the drugs designed to kill them.
The Centers for Disease Control say without urgent action, many modern medicines could become obsolete, turning even common infections into deadly threats. In the United States, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur each year, killing more than 35,000 people. WHO says it's one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.
The causes of antibiotic resistance include:
- Over-prescribing of antibiotics
- Patients not taking antibiotics as prescribed
- Unnecessary antibiotics used in agriculture
- Poor infection control in hospitals and clinics
- Poor hygiene and sanitation practices
- Lack of rapid laboratory tests
“Bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics are much harder to treat and can cause major health issues to the human population," said Dr. Suresh Menon, president and founder of Menon Renewable Products.
Headquartered in San Diego, Menon is on a mission to reduce or eliminate the use of antibiotics in animal feeds.
“Try to boost the animal’s immune function first, that should be the first step. Let's give the animal all the tools, improve their existing immune function, and that will slowly help the farmer cut back on the use of antibiotics," said Menon.
To do this, he developed Menon Renewable Feed or MrFeed.
Their patented process converts hydrocarbon-based sugars from agriculture waste into a functional animal feed ingredient.
“Imagine, thousands of tons of all the spent grain. Some of the microbreweries can do something with it, but the massive, big breweries cannot; we can take all that material to our plant and produce MrFeed from that," he explained.
The nutrient-rich feed contains amino acids, proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. In trials worldwide, Menon says millions of animals are showing improved health, growth, and survival.
“We are taking care of the health of animals such as salmon, trout, chicken, swine," said Menon. "We have shown under extreme disease exposure conditions in chickens and fish that our products helps them completely recover.”
One of their newest clients is McFarland Springs Trout in Susanville, California. The farm prides itself on sustainability, feeding its trout a diet free of fish meal and fish oil.
“Fish to feed fish? Yeah, eventually you’re going to run out," said hatchery manager Flagan Watkins.
Watkins is extremely hands-on at the farm, responsible for spawning, feeding, moving the fish, and cleaning out raceways.
“For me, the biggest difference is their taste; I think they taste better," said Watkins. “I’ll put our fish next to any other fish and let them taste it, and they can decide at the end of it.”
Rick Barrows, a consultant and fish nutritionist, helps formulate feed for the farm. He spent more than a decade developing plant-based feeds for the USDA.
"Fish meal diet may have 12 ingredients. McFarland Trout diet has 24 ingredients because we need different sources for all the nutrients fish meal carries with it," said Barrows.
And when fish is farmed for human consumption, nutritionists work to make sure it's also highly nutritious for the consumer.
While a smaller operation, they’ll be among some of the world’s largest suppliers of animal products now using MrFeed, like Costa Rican red snapper fish that could end up in your local Costco or shrimp from Indonesia being supplied to Walmart.
“In the U.S., of course, we are providing to Tyson, which is the biggest chicken producer," said Menon. “Our children, our grandchildren, will finally have meat, proteins, that are produced in the right way."
Barrows says several other companies are developing sustainable feeds with innovative ideas, like NovoNutrients; they're transforming carbon dioxide emissions into food and feed alternative protein ingredients through natural microbes and industrial biotech
“They’re real. The prices are coming down; it’s happening," said Barrows. "That’s the only way to make it happen, is farm by farm."