You’ve probably noticed the increasing frequency of some producers, food companies and retailers making antibiotic claims. It can be confusing as consumers today are bombarded with marketing campaigns and labels proclaiming such things as “Antibiotic Free” and “No Antibiotics Ever” – especially in chicken products.
Here’s the truth. Strict regulations are in place to ensure the products in your grocery store meat case contain no unsafe antibiotic residues. The same regulations apply to that sub from your favorite sandwich shop or the chicken breasts you buy at the grocery store. Federal regulations require a waiting period before animals that have been treated with antibiotics can enter the food chain to ensure the medicine works out of their systems.
Most farms choose to use antibiotics for good reasons like treating illness and preventing the spread of disease. Among them is Sanderson Farms, which is attempting to spread the word on this issue with a promotion involving videos and FAQs. Sanderson says it gave careful consideration to the issue and decided to keep using antibiotics for three reasons – animal welfare, sustainability and food safety.
- Raising chickens carries a moral obligation to take good care of the animals. Using antibiotics to protect birds against a disease like enteritis, which currently has no alternative treatment, prevents pain and suffering and is the right thing to do.
- Sick chickens grow slower, consuming more resources like grain and water. Keeping animals healthy is good for the environment and fosters sustainability.
- Unhealthy birds carry more bacteria. Using antibiotics responsibly decreases the chance of bacteria like campylobacter and salmonella from reaching the public.
Poultry producers, veterinarians, animal health companies and the federal government are working together to make sure antibiotics are used wisely. By the end of the year, antibiotics important to human medicine can no longer be used for growth promotion – only for disease treatment, control and prevention. New FDA rules will also get veterinarians more involved by requiring a Veterinary Feed Directive, essentially a prescription, before farms can use drugs important to human medicine.
Keeping choice available in the marketplace is important. Consumers who want to purchase “Antibiotic Free” or “No Antibiotics Ever” products should have that choice. But regardless of what’s on the label, consumers can rest assured the meat they’re purchasing is safe and wholesome.
I welcome your thoughts and questions. Please feel free to send me an email at AskDrDorman@pahc.com or call me at 844-288-3623. You can also browse our Resource Library to learn more about this important topic.