What's At Stake
Overuse of modern antibiotics has given rise to “superbugs”—bacteria that are now resistant to numerous antibiotics.
Antibiotics save millions of lives each year by fighting off bacterial infections. They have been the backbone of medicine, yet many of us take them for granted. With the global spread of bacterial superbugs, more and more infections are now much harder—or even impossible—to treat with antibiotics. In fact, antibiotic resistance has been identified as a top health crisis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
The overuse of antibiotics has sped up the development and spread of these superbugs. More responsible use of antibiotics in cows, pigs, turkeys, and chickens must be part of the solution. Yet U.S. livestock producers still routinely give antibiotics—the same or similar ones used by doctors—to animals that aren’t even sick.
NRDC is working to transform livestock antibiotics use practices and slow down the rise of superbugs. We’ve put public pressure on food industry giants like Subway and KFC, which both committed to ending routine antibiotic use in their supply chains. Since 2015, NRDC and our allies have published “Chain Reaction,” an annual report that reviews the antibiotic use policies of top restaurant chains. This public pressure has led more companies to adopt voluntary commitments. But it’s not enough. That’s why NRDC advocates for laws restricting the use of medically important antibiotics on animals—we’ve won such laws in California and Maryland—as well as policies that require companies to be more transparent about their antibiotics practices, such as an ordinance we helped pass in San Francisco.
Though we’ve seen significant progress in the chicken industry, there is still a great deal of work ahead on beef and pork. NRDC will continue to call on companies and policymakers to fight this growing threat to life-saving modern medicine.
Reporting, expert commentary, analysis, and more.
The vast majority—a whopping 92 percent—of U.S. chicken sold in 2018 was produced without the use of antibiotics considered medically important by FDA.
Our analysis shows that 44 percent more medically important drugs are destined for cattle and swine than for human medical use.
New findings suggest that antibiotic cheating may be rampant in the non-organic milk industry.
Up to 162,000 people die as a result of antibiotic-resistant superbugs each year.
Wendy's grade on the most recent antibiotics scorecard of the burger industry
Secrecy is one feature of the superbug epidemic we can no longer afford.
The U.S. livestock industry is using medically important drugs almost twice as intensively—95 percent more—than the industries in 30 European countries, collectively.
Unfortunately, neither Wendy's nor Taco Bell's attempts at antibiotic stewardship amount to more than a new facade for business-as-usual practices.
In the United States, livestock antibiotic use continues to account for nearly two-thirds of the sales of medically important antibiotics—often fed to animals that are not sick to help them survive crowded and unsanitary conditions on industrial farms.
“This is a welcome change of heart and good news for people’s health. To inspire consumer confidence, however, these new pledges will need to be independently verified.”
The percentage of all medically important drugs sold for animal use in the United States that go to the pork and beef industry
The number of Americans who suffer from antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year
The number of pounds of beef that McDonald’s buys annually
The number of medically important antibiotics approved by the FDA to be given in feed to poultry, pigs, or cattle with ZERO duration limits.