There Are No Antibiotics In Your Meat. Now Stop.

“Restaurant report card grades on antibiotics in meat supply”

If you’ve been on social media or any news website over the past couple days, chances are you’ve seen the above headline, or something darn near close to it. Along with the headline above, CNN’s version of the story highlights include: “New report examines antibiotics in meat supply at 25 U.S. chain restaurants.”

The problem is that’s not really what the report reviewed.

The report, which was released by Friends of the Earth (yes, the same environmental activist group that attacked me in their last report) and the Natural Resources Defense Council, actually reviewed the use of antibiotics in the production chain of “fast casual” restaurants. The report reviewed various chain restaurants and determined which chains monitor and regulate the use of antibiotics in production and which ones do not. The problem, however, is that this has nothing to do with antibiotic residue being found in your meat, as the headlines suggest. Nothing.

There Are Not Antibiotics In Your Meat

The biggest media mistake here is the confusing and misleading headlines suggesting that there are antibiotic residues present in our meat supply. This is simply false.

While it is true that farmers use antibiotics in animal production, this does not translate to consumers eating those antibiotics when they eat meat. In fact, it should come as no surprise that there are specific government regulations which ensure that there are no antibiotic residues in your meat. Antibiotics are only allowed for use in animal agriculture after undergoing a lengthy and thorough review process by the FDA, which focuses on human health.


Animal producers are required to keep records regarding which animals have been treated with antibiotics, which antibiotics have been given, and what dose of the antibiotic was given. Before an animal treated with antibiotics is allowed to be slaughtered for meat, they must go through a withdrawal period. While it varies based on the type of antibiotic given and the dose, this withdrawal period ensures that the antibiotics are sufficiently out of the animal’s system before the animal enters the food supply. For a very excellent discussion of how these withdrawal times are determined, check out this article.

Withdrawal periods ensure that there are no antibiotics in our meat.

And yes, there is testing done and checks done to make sure that antibiotic residues are not showing up in our meat supply. Not every piece of meat is tested, obviously. However, the USDA does do random sampling and keeps track of data they obtain. (You can read more about how this is done for meat, poultry and eggs here.) As veterinarian Scott Hurd explained in his article, which he wrote during Panera’s offensive antibiotic-free campaign for chicken, after looking at that residue data:

Of the scheduled residue samples from 2009-2011, there have been 0.13 percent violations in market hogs, 0.12 percent in beef cattle and ZERO in broilers. For those not mathematically inclined, “zero” means antibiotic free!

US farmers are doing a darn good job of keeping antibiotic residues out of our meat supply! (By the way, I’ve previously explained that there are also no antibiotics in our milk.) Unfortunately, that isn’t the information that people are likely to glean from the news stories that have been circulating.

The reality is, we live in a world of headlines. Most people will never click on the CNN article and read to see what this report actually reviewed, or what information was really being presented, or even that these two activist organizations were behind it. At the very least, shame on the media for using a misleading headline over and over again that will surely confuse consumers into thinking that there are antibiotics in our meat.

There are not. Now stop.

Antibiotic Use In Animal Agriculture

So, what about what the report was really looking at – the use of antibiotics in our meat production?

Yes, it is true that animal agriculture employs the use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are usually used to treat sick animals, treat the herd to prevent animals from getting sick, or in some cases, to promote growth. (You can read more about that here.) The real concern here is about antibiotic resistance building up from the frequent use of antibiotics. (You can read more about that here.) Of course, this is something that should concern all of us, and we should all consider ways we can reduce this resistance from occurring.mycow

That being said, farmers care about preventing antibiotic resistance, too. After all, we want to make sure these important, life-saving medicines will work for our families if and when the time comes.

While they use antibiotics, farmers do take steps to reduce the development of resistance, such as using antibiotics that are not commonly used as medicine for humans. Furthermore, the FDA has been taking steps to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal production, both by phasing out their use in production practices (such as for promoting growth) and making the use for preventing or treating disease under the oversight of a licensed veterinarian. To implement these changes, the FDA is working with the industry and asking the manufacturers of these antibiotics implement them. You can read more about the FDA’s efforts here.

The new FDA regulations are an important first step in slowing the problem of antibiotic resistance. This is a problem that all of us, not just farmers, will need to tackle. We should also recognize there is a difference between using antibiotics to treat sick animals, and using these important medicines simply for production practices. But none of this has anything to do with the report and the misleading headlines – our meat does not have antibiotic residues and consumers should not worry about consuming antibiotics in any animal products. Properly cooking the meat to kill any bacteria — resistant or not — should be the main concern.

But that’s exactly what this “report” and it’s findings were meant to accomplish.

Unfortunately, Earth Justice and the Natural Resources Defense Council have decided to create this list, in hopes that consumers will pressure these companies to stop sourcing meat from farms that still use antibiotics. We’ve seen these types of tactics from the likes of Food Babe, and I don’t think misleading folks is the way we work to make changes in our food policy. Worse, I’m sure their use of a misleading headline was less than innocent. It isn’t at all surprising to me that the report concluded Panera and Chipotle, two restaurants that have a soft spot for unfairly attacking agriculture, got top marks.

Bottom line: There are no antibiotics in your meat!


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50 Responses to "There Are No Antibiotics In Your Meat. Now Stop."

  1. All I have to say is Thank you. I will be sharing this article with many, my only hope is that they will be open-minded to get the facts and learn the truth!

  2. And we believe everything we read on the Internet? I have studied this for a long time and respectfully, you are wrong and our meat is horribly unhealthy for all of us. The FDA is not looking out for our best interest i.e. GMOs. But I’m sure those are made up and non-harmful too right?! Our food has little to no nutrients and we are all paying for it. Farmers are controlled and abused to produce mass quantities regardless of quality. It’s about money and nothing more. So yes, of course you would want everyone to believe it’s healthy when it’s not because it brings a bigger paycheck. Good for you, bad for those of who actually believe you.

    • The University of Google is not real. I’m going to side with scientists on this one (and GMOs), thanks.

    • You are the one who is wrong!

    • Well said Cindy, Thank You! You are right… It’s all about the money.

      • Oh, I’m sorry Libby – do you go to work for free every single day?? Neither do farmers.

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with making a profit from the work you do each and every day. Suggesting otherwise is not only a completely ineffective and irrelevant argument, it’s just plain stupid.

        Regardless of whether we make money or not, our families eat the exact same food that we produce and sell to your family. We care about producing safe and quality food so we can eat it too!

    • Your ignorance for someone who has “studied” this is unreal. You and your anti-science uneducated friends are what is wrong with the world. Show me the science that proves your false claims to be true.

    • Thank you! My thoughts exactly!

    • Exactly. this is such propaganda; drug tests show lots of residues in humans. not in meat? bull $hit.

      • I wasn’t aware that there was a withdrawal time for humans before they were slaughtered. In other words, citation needed.

    • Research… heheh. AKA – I watched 2 hours of “youtube videos from unreliable sources.” = Research.

    • You are clinically insane. Please seek help before you harm someone with your fantasies.

  3. Amanda, et al – the problem is that animals and poultry who are given antibiotics prophylactically or for fattening produce antibiotic resistant bacteria in their gut.

    And kill off good bacteria making them more susceptible to disease.

    Those drug resistant bacteria remain on the meat (due to sloppy slaughter process) & in fields where manure is spread where they can blow or drift everywhere.

    This results in increased cases of drug resistant infections in people.

    Wherever did you learn your animal husbandry practices?

    Former farm girl from pre antibiotic overuse era. Only lazy sorry excuses for farmers use them and countries that have banned that use are doing fine thank you very much.

    • KM, Try reading the article before you respond. That helps. Thanks for being part of the problem.

  4. T

    So there is no antibiotic residues in meant, great. Your stance of using antibiotics for treating sick animals is something I don’t think anybody will argue, and I’m all for clearing up misconceptions due to sensationalists headlines used as click bait. That being said, it’s the other part of this that people are concerned about. That being the use of antibiotics for production purposes or growth purposes which you conveniently pass off on to someone else and don’t really address. If agriculture really wants to be part of the solution, shouldn’t they agree to stop all antibiotic except for sick animals? I don’t think it’s wrong for people to want to purchase food/meat from sources/business that support that. It’s hard not to accept this as a large amount of spin from an area of agriculture that has no doubt suffered an image problem because people are starting to care more about where their food comes from and how the animals are treated.

    • I hardly passed that issue off to someone else. I acknowledged that antibiotic resistance is an issue that all of us, farmers and non-farmers alike, need to address. This is one article about one topic, not a dissertation. That being said, I also linked to new measures being taken by the FDA that will eliminate the use of antibiotics for growth production purposes, greatly reduce the use of them as preventatives, and require veterinarian oversight. So, yes, agriculture is part of the solution and will be taking these very important steps, along with the FDA.

    • Most antibiotics are not used for growth promotion. They are meant to keep the herd healthy in an outbreak situation. Just as prophylactically treating all members of a household with a particular medication, when one member gets sick. Growth promotion comes from the animals staying healthy, rather than some boost from the medication itself. Treating sick animals is expensive and time consuming, and farmers and producers do not go around giving injections for the heck of it. Grass fed beef are not necessarily “organic”. The animals may be grass fed, but medications may need to be administered to prevent disease (vaccinations, dewormers) and parts of the world have diseases endemic to the area that needs to have necessary treatment or prevention. Each month pet owners administer heartworm and flea/tick preventatives to their 4 legged family members. My 4 legged family members just live out in the pasture.

  5. Hurrah for your article. It will help me explain all of this meat stuff to my idiot friends who believe everything they read!

  6. As long as everyone follows the rules and nothing slips through… And I mean NO disrespect whatsoever…but this doesn’t clear it up…it adds more confusion. Sometimes it seems it would be easiest not to eat ANYthing!

    • What are you still confused about? Did you read the links I wrote you?

      Of course, it is possible that someone will slip up and something will get passed the law, but that would be the exception, not the norm. And it can happen in any industry. What if the waiter doesn’t wash he hands after going to the bathroom? I’m sure that violates a health safety code. People fall short all the time. As in most cases, there are checks there though. For example, all milk is supposed to be free from antibiotic residue. It’s all tested. If some antibiotic residue is found, then that tank gets dumped and the farmer doesn’t get paid for any of it. There are consequences when these things happen, so there is real incentive NOT to let them happen.

      The good news is that, more often than not, when one of these rules gets broken, you’re probably going to still be just fine.

      • If you think the food industry can be completely honest, then maybe you believe in the tooth fairy.

        I’m sure many are but where money comes to play, honesty is not there much of the time.

        Protect your own health by being careful.

        Just look at our politicians ” honesty.”

  7. Yes,there is antibiotics in our meat.

    • Oh well, gosh, now that you’ve said so it MUST be true!!

  8. Hi! I was born and raised on a farm. My dad raised GMO row crops. We had a thousands of bird chicken operation until I was eleven and we moved. Then we had several commercial hog barns.
    My husband was raised on a row crop farm and also raised hogs on the side. Until last fall, he still farmed with his dad and brothers, a little over 2000 acres.
    All that to say….I do not fall into the ‘city girl who falls for everything she reads’ category. My dad and brother still raise hogs by the thousands, still farm row crops. My husbands family still row crop farms over 2000 acres.
    I’m not up on all the latest protocol, but I know that a few years ago there were antibiotics in either the feed or the water every day for all the thousands of hogs that my dad and brother raise. I’m pretty sure that most of the bagged feed you can purchase for chickens has medication in the feed. You cannot tell me that there are NO antibiotics in the meat that we consume. The FDA does have a process for testing. They have a protocol. There cannot be over a certain amount of antibiotics in the meat, but I don’t believe they can truthfully state that there are NO antibiotics. I don’t believe that my dad and brother have ever taken the pigs off feed for thirty days withdrawal before they have gone to slaughter.
    I honestly don’t see what the big hurrah is on the internet regarding the antibiotics in meat. We don’t eat that stuff….we raise our own that we KNOW are antibiotic free their entire lives. If the animals are not in confinement, they generally don’t have issues with being sick and won’t need meds. I get that not everyone can raise their own meat. I get that you think the non-GMO and antibiotic free stuff is a ridiculous. Your article was very well written, but not one that I agree with at all. 🙂
    We actually raise 100% grassfed beef and use only non-GMO feed for our pork and chicken. 😉 Feed that we manufacture and sell because we believe it is better for us. I’m not going to force you to agree with me. I will simply respectfully disagree with you.
    And like I said…or maybe just thought and never stated…perhaps there are no longer antibiotics in feed or water for confinement animals. But I choose to err on the side of caution.

    • Jody, thanks for the comment. First, all animals get sick whether they are in confined areas or not. Are you aware that the avian flu was actually spread by wild water fowl? And, for the record, organic farmers use antibiotics too (even for animals that are outside!), they just have to remove them from the herd afterward. So, I can’t really buy that animals outside never get sick. Look, if it was as easy as letting the animals outside all the time to prevent illness, we would be doing that. However, it is in a farmer’s interest to keep sickness at a minimum without antibiotics and I believe they are employing methods to do that. But using antibiotics to treat sick animals is a humane thing to do, and it certainly doesn’t mean that animal is now tainted forever.

      Second, we have strict withdrawal times and the science tells us that the antibiotics are out of the animals system before going to harvest. That isn’t really debatable. While I suppose it is possible for a farmer to completely disregard that, it is still federal law. Personally, I don’t know a lot of farmers that are so light on breaking federal law. Furthermore, protocols have changed in recent years to mandate withdrawal times and eliminate this from happening. Meat is tested at the packer, so I’m pretty sure if those protocols were never being followed, it would get picked up.

      I’m actually going to suggest you check out my friend Wanda at Minnesota Farm Living. Her and her husband are involved in pork production and she’s very knowledgeable about current laws regarding that type of production and the requirements related to it. In fact, I actually brought your comment to her attention before responding. Wanda is more than happy to answer any questions and I think she, as someone involved in current meat production, would definitely agree that all meat is antibiotic free. She did an article about Subway’s latest announcement here:

  9. So who pays your bills?

    • Wow. A shill accusation? Try again when you can come up with something original.

  10. Amanda, you seem to be missing the point of scientific concern around overuse of antibiotics in livestock. It’s not so much about what the drugs do to the meat. It’s a much larger issue, and many of the articles you dismiss address this larger issue. Overuse of agricultural antibiotics is the primary cause of pharmaceutical pollution in surface water that appears to be playing havoc with a number of sensitive species. It’s likely to be the primary cause of resistant strains of pathogens among livestock. As you pointed out in your reverence to avian flu, many pathogens, including some of the superbugs being raised by overused of antibiotics, are able to cross species. While you mention this problem, you’ve somehow concluded that consumer action, by selecting meat with the best practices related to antibiotic use, isn’t a valid approach. Why the heck not? Of course, your dismissal of the shill suggestion without exactly saying it’s not true raises eyebrows. Reminiscent perhaps of Exxon’s commercials playing a happy tune and singing about how CO2 was good for plants while running a science denial campaign on the side and denying that they had any interest besides the good of the environment. Hmmm?

    • It would be so much easier if people would actually take the time to read my articles before commenting…

      I think you overlooked the main point of my article – the news media was making it sound as though there are antibiotics IN YOUR MEAT. There is not. That was the point of my article and that’s what it clearly spells out.

      I did address the issue of overuse of antibiotics, including a link to an article that was very critical of the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. However, I also indicated that the FDA is taking major steps to reduce and restrict the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. I think this will go a very long way to helping the problem, but we also need to take major steps in reducing the use in human medicine as well, and perhaps with our pets. Again, all of that was addressed in the article and none of it was overlooked, even though that’s not what the article was about.

      Finally: raises eyebrows? Really? No, quite frankly I am sick and tired of the shill accusation from people that disagree with me simply because they cannot make an argument against what I’m saying. It is lame, pathetic, and just a ridiculous attempt at discrediting me. You want to know who pays my bills? ME! You know how I pay those bills? With the salary FROM MY FULL TIME JOB. Unlike the people that are raking in millions of dollars, like Food Babe, from spreading fear and promoting products that just happen to support that fear, I do this as a hobby in my spare time. No one pays me to do this and I spend money running my website. Why? Because I’m passionate about agriculture and I’m sick and tired of the lies and misinformation (such as the topic of this post) that’s being spread around like it doesn’t hurt anyone. It does hurt people. It hurts family farmers. It hurts consumers. It hurts those that are less well off. It hurts new moms. It hurts people in developing countries. Instead of just getting ticked off about it, I decided to stand up and do something. I’m sorry if taking your passion and doing something to support it seems so far off to you.

  11. You are being misleading.

    While it’s true that animals aren’t slaughtered until the antibiotic levels in their meat is reduced to a safe level, that wasn’t the main issue in the first place. But you insist that it is the issue and further that there are no antibiotics in meat.

    And you dismiss all objections.

    Don’t you think you would be more effective if you were less obviously wrong?

    • Read. The. Article.

      I addressed the issue you’re referring to explicitly. In fact, it had its own section. I insist that is the main issue because that is the misleading and wrong headlines that the media chose to go with. And, no, there are no antibiotics in your meat.

      You would probably understand the article more if you would just read it.

  12. Amanda, I love your blog! It’s so refreshing to know that there are still some people out there who have faith in our farmers! I am currently an Animal Science major at Texas Tech University and it has been such an amazing experience to get to learn all about our food industry and how to animals are handled from the time they are born, until they reach the consumer’s plate. I am an Agriculture Ambassador and part of our job it to make sure the public knows that the food being produced is the most efficient and healthiest it has ever been. I know many many people who are “anti-GMOs” and feel that their is antibiotic in their meat and I can’t wait to show them your blogs so that they can see an inside perspective on exactly how farmers work to ensure that our food supply is safe. Keep doing wha you’re doing, it really does matter!

    You Rock!

    Kena Williams

    • Hi Kena! Glad you like the blog! I love hearing from people studying agriculture – we definitely need more of that! Good luck in your studies! 🙂

  13. I loved this so much! I’m currently majoring in Animal Science as well and I have to write a research paper for an English class on a controversial subject related to my major so I chose Antibiotics! Ha! 🙂 I really liked all of the other articles that you linked in your post too! It just makes my blood boil when I hear people talk about how Animals should NEVER receive antibiotics and how they make our food unhealthy. If only people knew what they were talking about! Again, thank you so much for your post!

  14. Wow! You must have nerves of steel Amanda! It has to be hard to read comments from people who have no idea what they’re talking about. They only read one side (maybe an activist side) and they really don’t know what they’re talking about when they attack you! Thanks for keep trying to educate ignorant people!!

  15. Hey Amanda, just wanted to say I’m blown away by the amount of work you put in to this.

    I really appreciate how passionate and well-educated you are on the subject AND that you have the patience to answer questions and refute bad logic from others.

    You’re a really amazing human, and I want you to know that I use your blog every day when I talk to others about these issues.

    • Thank you!!! You put such a smile on my face! 🙂

  16. Just all become Vegan , that will fix the problem. :))

    • Ben

      I am strict about all the animals I eat being vegan. 🙂

      • So you eat no bear, alligator, snake, crab, lobster, or frog? OK.

        Modern factory-farmed pigs get no chance to eat meat, of course, unless they are fed meat. I’m told they’re usually given blood meal and bone meal, and maybe fish meal. Because it’s hard for pigs to survive on a strictly vegan diet. Of course, it’s feeding animals nervous tissue from other animals that gives them scrapie, mad-cow disease, etc. Yes, they were mixing in slaughterhouse offal into the feed for cows and sheep.

        Of course free-range chickens eat bugs when they can get them. And cows in nature eat a certain number of grasshoppers by accident. That’s why so many cow tapeworms etc have grasshoppers as intermediate hosts. They only complete their life cycle if cows (or something similar) eat them. This is why I say don’t eat grasshoppers unless they are thoroughly cooked. You might get a disease that nobody has heard of before in humans.

        It’s very hard to make sure that your food animals are actually raised vegan unless you raise them yourself. You can raise guinea pigs for food, and know everything they get to eat. Similarly you can raise your own mealworms and be sure they have not eaten the wrong things provided you separate out the big ones from the little ones.

  17. It’s absurd to say there are NO antibiotics in meat.

    But the FDA believes the level is low enough to be safe.

    Some farmers use feed that includes a “prophylactic” dose of antibiotics. This may sometimes prevent infections, and it may increase weight gain — depending on the antibiotic, the bacteria in the animal’s gut may grow slower because they have to make proteins that protect them from the antibiotic, and so there are more nutrients for the animal. But after some years of doing this, there are lots of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and they get out and wind up in places like hospitals.

    It is better in the long run not to give animals antibiotics until they need them.

    And it is better not to slaughter them if they are sick, but wait until they are in good health and their antibiotics have left them. Of course this is a considerable extra expense, and it’s understandable that unethical or money-challenged farmers might sometimes let that slide. Usually they won’t get caught.

    But good farmers who are not desperate won’t do it.

    • Thanks for commenting without reading the article!!!

      • BG

        Thank for a great article. Most of these people have attended YTU, you tube university and know everything about raising animals. They have all seen the same video! We hate to use antibotics unless necessary because they are expensive. There is no health insurance for animals with a $4 copay at walmart! Humans everytime they get the sniffles use a drug. Thats where the overuse is. And dont get me started on the. “pet parents” Keep up the good work!

      • is that your standard reply? honestly you come across as self righteous, dismissive and totally up yourself – people have concerns, read your article, disagree because they have seen conflicting evidence presented, and you insult them and are condescending. while you say there are NO antibiotics in meat, there is evidence to suggest that this is erroneous and that there are these drugs still in the meat people consume. This adds to the resistance we now see in humans (as well as over prescribing). you come across as an apologist for drugging sick animals and sending them to slaughter (itself an unsafe practice) and i can see why the shill comment was uttered. you’re a farmer, you raise animals for slaughter, of course you will defend your livelihood, but dismissing peoples legitimate concerns of an industry riddled with suspect and cruel practices is frankly stupid on your part and diminishes your credibility.

        • No, that is the reply I give when it is painfully obvious that people have failed to read the article. Instead, they assume they won’t like what I say and immediately have to go comment. I do not dismiss legitimate concerns – I actually addressed them in the article (so…maybe you didn’t read it either?).

          Also, my family does not raise animals for slaughter, so that’s now why I’m defending animal farmers. I am standing up against the inaccurate information being spread around making people concerned that there are antibiotics in their meat. The shill comment is completely unwarranted and, quite frankly, slander. Even if my family did raise animals, there is nothing wrong with me defending the industry, nor does that make me a shill. If I have a medical question, I ask a farmer. If I have a finance question, I ask an accountant. If I have an agriculture question, I’ll ask a farmer.

  18. Thanks for clarifying this. I no longer call “reporters” journalists, I call them what they truly are – Propagandists! Spread the word and keep up the good work of getting the truth out.

  19. Thank you Amanda! Dairy farmers get hounded by the same people so it is really refreshing to read your article. Thank you again!

  20. Thank you so much for putting this information out on the Internet for confused people to read. It’s despicable how the whole-food, organic crowd start a smear campaign of lies based on nothing substantial just to scare people into their camp. For example, GMOs have been around for a millennia with selective breeding for desirable traits. But will this stop these people from screaming how there’s antibiotics in meat and milk or how GMOs cause cancer despite clear evidence to the contrary? I think if a person doesn’t know what they are talking about they should do some serious research before they start flapping their gums.

  21. I’m writing a 6 minute speech on the new FDA regulations for the use of antibiotics in livestock, and this article gave me so much more to add into my speech about how there is no antibiotics in your meat no matter what, raising livestock myself I understand the importance of antibiotics and why we need them in order to keep the animals as health as possible. the only people hating on this article are peta and animal rights activist which are the most uneducated about livestock. this article couldn’t be closer to the truth and is backed up by evidence. so thank you for addressing this.

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