As my colleagues and I have discussed here on Switchboard, our meat system has a major drug problem.
80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in animal agriculture. The vast majority of that doesn’t even go towards treating sick farm animals. Instead, most of these drugs are routinely fed in low doses to chickens, pigs, cows, and other farm animals to make them grow faster and keep them from getting sick in the over-crowded and manure-filled conditions that are the unfortunate reality of our industrial livestock system.
The result is the rise of “superbugs”—dangerous bacteria that can infect people with life-threatening diseases like MRSA but have developed resistance to the antibiotics we rely on to fight them. If this sounds scary, that’s because it is. Doctors and scientists have long called for much more careful use of antibiotics so that disease-causing organisms don’t become immune to them.
What we need now is the will to act before we lose these important medicines forever. It’s time to push back against the drug pushers in the livestock and pharmaceutical industries and declare our independence from drugged up meat.
As long as these companies think consumers aren’t paying attention, they will continue with business as usual. But the good news is that consumers are paying attention. In a Consumer Reports nationwide opinion poll, 72% of respondents were extremely or very concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed potentially creating “superbugs” that are immune or resistant to antibiotics.
Here at NRDC, our litigators are the offensive, holding the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—the agency charged with regulating the use of antibiotics in the livestock industry—to account in the courts.
This Independence Day, you can flex your consumer muscle and go on the offensive too by buying only antibiotic-free meat for your 4th of July feast.
And that choice is getting easier and easier to make. As detailed in a new report by Consumer’s Union, shoppers visiting 136 supermarkets in 23 states, including at least five stores belonging to each of the 13 largest supermarket chains in the nation, found a wide selection of meat and poultry raised without antibiotics at Giant, Hannaford, Shaw’s and Stop & Shop. One supermarket chain—Whole Foods—guarantees that 100% of the meat and poultry sold in its stores is never treated with antibiotics.
In addition, based on the data collected by Consumer Reports’ shoppers, meat raised without antibiotics does not have to be expensive. While prices of such meat and poultry varied considerably depending on store, type of meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) and cut, in some cases shoppers found prices that were actually lower than the national average. Chicken raised without antibiotics was available for as little as $1.29 a pound at several stores including Trader Joe’s, Publix and Jewel-Osco.
Need help making sense of labels in your local meat aisle this week? Consumers can always rely on the “USDA Organic” label, since organic rules ban antibiotic use in livestock production. According to Consumer Reports,, consumers can generally rely on most labels that contain the words “no antibiotics” or “raised without antibiotics” especially if it is “USDA process Verified”, which means the US Department of Agriculture has checked up to see whether the producer is actually doing what it claims.
But before you head to your grocery store, take a minute to take some online action:
Add your voice to the Meat Without Drugs petition calling on Trader Joe’s to be even more of a leader on this issue by going 100% antibiotics free in its meat cases. Then get your friends and family to do the same.
Call on FDA to put real controls on antibiotics in livestock feedlots, not voluntary “guidance” to the industry that doesn’t pass the smell test.
And have a happy and healthy 4th of July!