Are Our Milk and Poultry Products Safe for Consumption?

Are Our Milk and Poultry Products Safe for Consumption?
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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

A few years ago, when a particular brand of packed milk was banned by the administration in Kashmir, an intense debatewhich centered on the quality of milk available in the market, especially of the packed variety ensued. All of us believe that this milk is, by and large, adulterated but the milk obtained from local cows is 100 % pure. Same is the case with poultry birds. People are still of the opinion that red meat (mutton, beef and so on) is not good for health and that is why large segment of the population prefers broiler chicken over mutton. Consumption of red meat on regular basis is indeed not good for health and that is an acclaimed fact, but when it comes to consuming broiler variety of poultry meat it is also not at all safe.
In search of pure milk, a friend of mine from the old city, buys so called “pure milk” from Dara village which is 25 kms from his locality. During a brainstorming session some years back, I asked my friend(s) following questions:
Can purity of milk be determined only from the fact that it is obtained from a cow or a buffalo?
Do our cows or buffaloes really produce pure milk ?
Is our milk organic?
When I raised the 3rd question, my friends were a bit confused as I uttered the word “organic milk”. They thought I was talking about Organic fruits or vegetables, but when I clarified that milk or meat also has to be organic, we all got involved into a long discussion over the issue.
During Sept 2016, I visited the Tiptur township in Karnataka in search of a man called Dr GNS Reddy. Tiptur is a small town located around 160 kms from Bangalore. My visit to the township changed my whole opinion about the fact that milk obtained from cows in villages especially in Kashmir is not pure even if it is not adulterated with water or other stuff like powered milk
Dr. Reddy’s Work
After working for 30 years in development sector, Dr G N S Reddy a veterinarian by training started a dairy based social enterprise named
Akashaya Kalappa. The literal meaning of Akashaya Kalappa, which is a Kannada word, is Infinite Possibilities. In September 2016 I went to Tiptur to see how Akashaya Kalappaworks. During the meeting, Dr Reddy explained in detail how he conceptualized the idea of Organic Dairy Farming.
While travelling in train towards Tiptur from Bangalore, I was visualizing Akashaya Kalappa to be a huge dairy farm with hundreds of cattle all around . But after I met Dr Reddy at his Tiptur office and my subsequent visit to few farms I got the clear picture of this project. Akashaya Kalappa farms are not owned by Dr Reddy’s company, but the local farmers own them. Dr Reddy’s Akashaya Kalappa provides them technical assistance and buys the milk produced which is then processed at the Milk Processing and packing plant which Akashaya Kalappa owns.
Organic Milk
Milk obtained from majority of the cows in Kashmir valley is not at all organic as our cattle are given fodder which is completely contaminated with chemical fertilizers. Our apple orchards get, at least, 10 to 12 pesticide sprays right from February to August every year. The fodder (oats, maize etc) which grows in these orchards is directly affected with these harmful chemicals. When the cattle consume this contaminated green/dry fodder, it results in the production of milk which contains toxins and harmful chemicals.
At Akashaya Kalappa farms, cows are only fed with the fodder (Gini, Barseem, maize, wheat, Naiper, Mulberry ) grown locally with the help of organic manure (cow dung). Use of antibiotics is not at all appreciated in the farms and if there are severe illness cases, antibiotics are prescribed to cattle, but the milk is destroyed for 3 consecutive days. A team from Akashaya Kalappa monitors all these activities and farmers are bound to follow them as the Akashaya Kalappa is the buyer of their milk plus having a written agreement with them. Organic milk is sold @Rs 65-70/litre in Tiptur, Tumkur and Bangalore areas.
Contaminated Poultry meat
It is a known fact that Antibiotics and growth hormones are being routinely given to poultry birds to promote growth and to prevent the chickens from getting infected with various diseases. According to Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, a noted poultry expert, who has been director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, Washington DC and New Delhi. 12 out of the 18 poultry farms ie (67% farms) in India reported the use of antimicrobials as growth boosters. Tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones, antibiotics commonly used to treat cholera, malaria, respiratory and urinary tract infections in humans, were the most commonly used of these. This scientific study has been published in an acclaimed journal Environmental Health Perspectives. More than 32 years ago, Sweden banned the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in the poultry industry as a result of consumer awareness. The strong Consumer Movements in Europe and USA have played a major role in introducing poultry farming standards and legislations to regulate the use of antibiotics in poultry farms. In 2006, the European Union banned the use of antibiotics as poultry growth promoters. In 2015 US introduced veterinary feed directive whereby the use of drugs on the veterinary feed is permitted only under the professional supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
According to a study conducted in 2010 by the West Bengal University of Animal & Fisheries Sciences (WBUAFS), drugs (mostly antibiotics) mixed with chicken feed, used to serve as growth promoters in poultry birds were being passed on to humans through broiler meat and eggs. Residues of these medicines were turning consumers resistant to antibiotics. West Bengal produces 65 lakh chickens per week; 45% of these chickens are consumed in and around Kolkata city only. Within just 5 weeks, a chick grows into an adult chicken by excessive use of antibiotics that helps in quick digestion and accumulation of weight. This study reveals that drugs made it possible to produce 1 kg meat with just 1.8 kgs of contaminated chicken feed. An average broiler chicken weighs 2 kgs weighs 3.6 kgs of feed till it is slaughtered.
Conclusion:
The administration and its various departments, especially Animal Husbandry department, SK Agriculture University (Srinagar/Jammu) need to come up with concrete ideas to overcome the menace of contaminated milk and poultry meat in the J&K state. The administration must ban contaminated poultry feed and stop its sale and supply. Authorities must promote and propagate organic dairy and poultry farming techniques. They must involve local farmers to create these models in Jammu & Kashmir. If we continue to feed our cows and poultry birds with contaminated fodder and feed, we would be getting harmful milk and meat in return. Entrepreneurs and farmers who intend to start small dairy farms and poultry units must look into these aspects with diligence. Introducing backyard poultry farms of native variety is also an option. The Animal husbandry department, State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) and Rural Development Departments must introduce backyard poultry farming by way of introducing native variety of poultry birds in villages across J&K . Poultry birds such as Van Raja, White Leg horn, Lolab, Kashmir faverolla and so on must be introduced in J&K at a large scale, the sooner the better!

—The author, a Founder & Chairman of the Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement Can be reached at: bhatrajamuzaffar@gmail.com