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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30 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.

  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.

  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: http://www.mnfarmliving.com/2015/10/top-5-things-subway-customers-need-to-know.html

  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!!

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