Better Bacon: Why It’s High Time the U.S. Pork Industry Stopped Pigging Out on Antibiotics

Issue Brief
June 06, 2018

Antibiotic resistance is one of the world’s greatest health threats. Already, at least two million Americans each year suffer infections due to drug-resistant bacteria, resulting in more than 23,000 deaths. The unnecessary use of medically important antibiotics is a major driver of this worsening crisis.

A key contributor is widespread overuse of antibiotics in U.S. livestock production, including by the pork industry. Irresponsible use of antibiotics on pig farms has created ripe conditions for drug-resistant bacteria―as well as the genes that foster resistance―to multiply and spread from farms to people.

U.S. pork producers use double the antibiotics per kilogram of pig as do U.K. producers, and seven times the levels used in Denmark or the Netherlands. (See the Table 1 and Table 2 PDFs for more information on the calculations behind these comparisons.) Medically important antibiotics should no longer be used routinely on U.S. farms when animals are not sick. This issue brief shows why it's high time for the U.S. pork industry to stop pigging out on antibiotics and adopt more responsible practices. It identifies steps that consumers and governments, in addition to companies, can take to make that happen.