We’ve all seen them. Meat products at your local grocery store with the words “antibiotic free” stamped on the front of a package in bold letters. Contrary to what many may believe about this statement, all meat products are antibiotic free.
Let me explain.
The term “antibiotic free” and “raised without antibiotics” identifies that this meat is from an animal that has never been given antibiotics during its life. This being said, if the meat packaging does not have this statement, it should still have no traces of antibiotics in the product.
“Whoa, are you saying that we’re being misled into purchasing higher priced products from false marketing statements?” Not necessarily.
Even though an animal may have been treated with an antibiotic for an illness at some point in their lives, there cannot be any traces of antibiotics in the finished product when it hits the market. This is required for all meat regardless of how it’s being promoted.
“Why would a farmer sell an animal with traces of antibiotics in its system?” Answer: They wouldn’t if they value their farm’s business.
If a farmer decides to sell an animal that has been recently treated with an antibiotic, it’s a regulatory requirement that they follow the protocol of a withdrawal time for the drug to leave the animal’s body entirely. If they do not comply with regulations, they’ll be in trouble with the USDA, FDA, and lots of other acronyms.
If this should occur, the farmer in question would be subject to a complete audit of all drug purchases and use records for every animal on the farm, and a potential shut down of their entire operation. Selling an animal with traces of antibiotics in its system could be professional suicide for a farmer.
There are many studies continually happening about the overuse of antibiotics in humans, as well as meat animals we consume, and if such overuse causes bacteria to evolve into “superbugs” (strains of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics).
The finger can be pointed at many potential causes of antibiotic usage and the connections to superbugs. Giving antibiotics to livestock has not necessarily been proven to help with the cause, though I’ll say it’s not something to be 100% ruled out. The overuse and overprescription of antibiotics to humans in this day and age can be argued to have as much of a role in superbugs, as the giving of antibiotics to meat animals.
I’m not here to tell you what to buy, or what not to buy, but to help educate on potential misdirection and misconceptions within the marketplace today. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge meat by its label or a lack of one. Research as much as you can and make informed decisions on what is best for you and your family.
About the author
Kris Potter, a Mercersburg, PA native has been involved with his family’s organic dairy farm most of his life. Growing up in the agriculture industry, he has experienced many sides of farming from milking 600 cows a day to shovelling and forking manure. His current focus is on Mello-D Feed & Fertilizer and helping others find organic and sustainable solutions for their farms. Additionally, he’s an extremely creative soul and owns a videography company Without Walls Media. We’re excited to have Kris as a contributor and bringing an inside look into the agriculture industry with our readers.