(NaturalNews) Chicken and oregano may seem like an obvious pairing to culinary enthusiasts, but at least one Pennsylvania farm is demonstrating its extraordinary health benefits in food production as well. For three years or so, chickens at Bell & Evans have been dining on a special feed laced with oregano oil and cinnamon, to protect against the bacterial diseases all too common among commercial food producers.
The farm, whose products have long been free of antibiotics, has enjoyed financial success thanks to the growing market of increasingly better informed consumers who demand organic, chemical-free meats. Owner Scott Sechler told the New York Times recently that the oregano oil concoction has proven more effective than any other substitute used by the farm in the past.
Oregano oil is healthier and more effective than antibiotics
In fact, studies show oregano oil has repeatedly outperformed even antibiotics themselves. By the late 1990s, the German pharmaceutical company Bayer was conducting trials on an oregano oil product known as Ropadiar -- the European name for the very same product, called By-O-Reg Plus, currently used at Bill & Evans. The studies compared the effectiveness of the oregano oil in fighting E. coli symptoms in piglets, with that of four of the company's own antibiotics. In all four test groups, Ropadiar was the clear winner. In a report on the studies, Bayer product manager Dr. Lucio Nisoli wrote: "Compared to the various anti-infectives, with Ropadiar I have obtained much more effective and quicker results. Furthermore, piglets treated with Ropadiar look much more healthy and were not so dehydrated and wasted." The company later indicated that results of this study could not be replicated.
Still, other studies offer reason to hope. One conducted on four small farms in Maine found that oregano oil helps protect goats and sheep against parasites and worms. And a separate study led by Dr. Harry G. Preuss, a professor of physiology and biology at the Georgetown University Medical Center, discovered that mice infected with staph bacteria who were fed oregano oil lived nearly twice as long as staph-infected mice fed a mixture of olive oil and carvacrol (the suspected antibacterial component in oregano) and about ten times longer than staph-infected mice fed only olive oil. In fact, this last group of mice had all died within just three days.
Preuss's study, which was presented at a 2001 meeting of the American College of Nutrition, has been repeated and its findings corroborated, a scientific development Dr. Preuss describes as "really promising, particularly when you consider that we are facing a crisis in our hospitals and health systems with the increasing resistance to antibiotics."
Antibiotics do more harm than good
Growing concern over the excessive use of antibiotics is understandable, given the rise of increasingly resistant deadly bacteria, which can be unresponsive to more than one form of antibiotic, including (as with CRE, or Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae) those considered by modern medicine to be the last line of defense.
The odds of such deadly bacteria being passed on to consumers seems only exacerbated by the already excessive use of antibiotics by conventional meat producers. According to analysis of Food and Drug Administration data by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, 80 percent of all the antibiotics sold in the United States are administered to animals, with the majority of them intended to enhance growth unnaturally or prevent the spread of infection among animals suffering in overcrowded conditions -- clear evidence that there is more wrong with conventional food production than just the overuse of antibiotics.
Quality farming is not one-dimensional
Sechler acknowledges there's more to his success than just the substitution of oregano oil for antibiotics. He also emphasizes the importance of solid nutritional standards for the animals, as well as a clean housing operation with plenty of ventilation and light. "You can't just replace antibiotics with oregano oil and expect it to work," Sechler said. At Bell & Evans, after chickens are harvested and sent to slaughter, workers hose down the barn, clean out the water lines, disinfect everything and then keep the space empty for two to three weeks to allow harmful bacteria and micro-organisms to die off, while also ridding the premises of any disease-transmitting rodents.
As word spreads of Sechler's success, other farms are beginning to follow the Bell & Evans example. Bob Ruth, president of Pennsylvania-based Country View Family Farms, began testing a By-O-Reg laced feed on 5,000 of his own pigs for the last six months or so. Preliminary results so far, he said, are encouraging.