Steak with a side of antibiotics

How much antibiotics are in the meat we eat?

Ranchers and farmers have been feeding antibiotics to animals for decades, because animals who are fed antibiotics gain 3 percent more weight per year, resulting in higher profit per pound.

The meat industry does not publicize the use of antibiotics, but one researcher estimates that 15-17 million pounds of antibiotics are fed to farm and ranch animals per year.    These are the same antibiotics used to treat humans when they are sick.

The concern is that the continued use of antibiotics in animals over time can lead to bacterial resistance.   If a human then ingests the bacteria and becomes ill, they may not respond to antibiotic treatment.

One study found that people who developed Cipro-resistant bacteria had acquired the infection by eating pork that was contaminated with salmonella, and had been spread for swine to humans.

Another study found that 20% of supermarket meat contained salmonella, and of that salmonella, 84% were resistant to at least one antibiotic.

Routine feeding of antibiotics to animals has been banned in some countries, but is still legal in the United States.

Is there hope on the horizon?  Some major food companies such as Tyson Foods and Foster Farms, among others, have declared that they are reducing antibiotic use.  McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and some other restaurants are refusing to buy chicken that has been treated with antibiotics.  Also now some grocery stores carry antibiotic free meat.


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