Trending food term: antibiotic-free meat

Dec 16, 2013 by

Trending food term: antibiotic-free meat

Antibiotic use in animal production. In large-scale animal agriculture production, animals are often raised in close quarters and encouraged to put on weight a faster-than-normal rate. Both of these factors stress animals’ systems and make them more susceptible to disease and infection. To keep amping up production in this large-scale production model, the industry adds antibiotics to animal feed and gives “preventative” shots of antibiotics. Antibiotics encourage animals put on weight and may decrease the spread of disease. The widespread use of antibiotics in animal production has some dire consequences that impact antibiotic resistancepublic health, and your individual health.

So then what is antibiotic-free meat?  Antibiotic-free meat doesn’t actually have a USDA-approved definition. The term that is defined is “no antibiotics added” which means the producer has documentation to show that the animals were raised without antibiotics.

Is all “natural” meat raised without antibiotics? No. The USDA defines “natural” as “containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.” Using antibiotics to promote growth does not exclude a product from being labelled “natural.”

Current news.  Antibiotic-free meat has received a lot press coverage recently. The FDA is trying to decrease the use of antibiotics in animal production by encouraging drug companies to voluntarily change the labels on antibiotics to no longer list “increase weight gain” as an approved use of antibiotics. Do you think this approach will work? Other approaches to increase awareness about use of antibiotics include groups that are working to require better labeling rules on meat sold.

What can you do about excessive antibiotic use in animal production? Find out more about USDA and FDA requirements. Read labels. Get involved with local and national agriculture and consumer-advocacy organizations. Buy from your local meat producers. The Roanoke Valley has a lot of great meat producers- cattle, turkey, chicken, pigs- you can talk to them about how they raise their animals. See the happy cattle (below) from a farm in Floyd,VA.