If you have ever had any sort of infection, you know that antibiotics can be a lifesaver, sometimes literally. Similar to humans, animals must be treated with antibiotics when they experience bacterial diseases and infections that can be treated. This keeps the entire herd happy and healthy, and allows for the farmer to continue to produce a portion of the world’s food supply. Farmers and ranchers do everything they can to protect both the livestock and the consumer through their antibiotic use. Without the care the farmers take to treat the infected animals, it is as safe as can be for humans to consume the food produced from livestock.
While there are some concerns around antibiotic use in livestock, the benefits far outweigh the potential risks. Antibiotics are used in humans and animals alike to treat infections and help prevent disease. Some of the ways antibiotic use in livestock has proven beneficial over the years include improved health, more production, lower instances of disease, and a reduced mortality rate. All of these benefits lead to a more nutritious and higher-quality food that is produced at a much lower cost when compared to the past.
Some fear that antibiotic use in food-producing animals leads to antibiotic resistance in humans. To minimize this, farmers and ranchers use antibiotics only when needed. This is done under veterinary advice and supervision. This helps keep the negative effects to a minimum, while also keeping the livestock happy and healthy. While there is a possibility of receiving those antibiotic-resistant bacteria from consuming food, your best bet is to ensure you are preparing raw meats the appropriate way, cooking it all the way through and maintaining general cleanliness while preparing food.
If you are concerned about antibiotics in your food, you can rest assured that all livestock is required to be antibiotic free before going to slaughter. This means your animal products will be antibiotic free, whether it has the label or not. There is a set withdrawal period for livestock that has had any sort of medication. This can range anywhere from 0-60 days depending on the type of product the animal received. So, even though you might see those “antibiotic free” labels on your food, this actually means very little. In fact, there is no clear definition for this label, and it is not approved by the USDA.
Antibiotics are used in food-producing animals to make sure they are happy and healthy, and the farmers take excellent care to ensure that your food supply is not harmed by antibiotic use. Even though antibiotics are used in livestock, this does not mean that you are consuming an antibiotic.