Antibiotic resistance is a very well-known problem today. It occurs when antibiotics used to treat serious infections are rendered ineffective through collective overuse. However, many are unaware that 80% of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are not taken by humans but actually given to animals being farmed for meat. It is actually routine practice in the meat industry to feed antibiotics even to healthy animals in order to promote rapid growth and to enable the animals to be raised in overcrowded and unsanitary environments. A number of health and environmental risks are associated with this practice. Although some efforts to regulate this problem have been implemented, they are still far from reaching the needed effect.

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What’s Wrong with Antibiotics in Meat?

  • Antibiotic overuse in the meat industry causes drugs used to treat serious infections to become ineffective. With few alternative treatments, many once treatable conditions can now be life threatening. This problem affects everyone, not just those who eat factory-farmed meats.
  • A study conducted by Kjeldgaard and colleagues found that use of antibiotics increases the survival of pathogens such as E. Coli and Salmonella in certain meats, posing a higher threat of infection to consumers who eat these products.
  • As the antibiotics make their way into the environment through agriculture runoff, they threaten soil organisms which are integral to our ecosystems, to our food chain, and ultimately to human health. These drugs also contaminate the water supply and make their way back into our bodies.

How to Avoid Antibiotics in Meat

  • Buy organic meats. USDA Organic standards do not permit the use of antibiotics in the production of livestock.
  • Buy meats at your local farmers market. It is less common for small-scale producers, especially those raising pastured animals, to overuse antibiotics, as opposed to industrial factory farms in which it is common practice. Buying straight from the farm also affords you the opportunity to ask about farming practices.
  • Be aware that the label “natural” means nothing. This label does NOT ensure that the meat was produced without antibiotics.

Author: Claire Bailey