Food Safety

Published on April 27th, 2013 | by Heather Carr


Avoiding Antibiotics in Meat


The 2011 Retail Meat Report released by the FDA in February this year indicated that 87% of meats tested had Enterococci bacteria on them. While Enterococci can cause infections in humans that ingest them, the infections are not often serious. However, Enterococci most likely got onto the meat through fecal matter.

Poop in the food is also how e. coli – a potentially deadly bacteria – causes foodborne illness. How does fecal matter get onto a prime rib? Modern “efficient” food systems move fast and there’s a lot of pressure on the workers to move faster. Employees don’t always have time to properly clean a carcass or the surfaces and tools they use. They should, and there are regulations to that effect, but when a person’s job depends on moving the maximum amount of product in a given amount of time, oversights can happen. With the rise in antibiotic resistance in bacteria, any accidental contamination becomes that much more dangerous.

Avoiding meat that has been raised with unnecessary antibiotics isn’t impossible, but it does take a little effort.

Check the label – USDA Certified Organic, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership on the label indicates antibiotics were either never used or were only used in case of illness. The words “antibiotic free” are meaningless. All animals raised for human consumption must stop ingesting drugs for a short amount of time before slaughter. Once that short amount of time is up, they are considered antibiotic free, even if they spent their entire lives with antibiotics coursing through their veins.

Buy from farmers who raise their animals responsibly – EWG has online resources to help find farmers who rely on good sanitation and low stress environments to keep their animals healthy. You can also ask how the meat was cared for at a farmers market or even at a grocery store.

Pills photo via Shutterstock

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About the Author

Heather Carr loves food, politics, and innovative ways to make the world a better place. She counts Jacques Pepin and Speed Racer among her inspirations. You can find her on Facebook or .

8 Responses to Avoiding Antibiotics in Meat

  1. Chris says:

    This really does make you think how meat is handled and treated. Not very nice to think about, but brought to the fore usually when things go wrong. If you think about it too much, you just wouldn’t eat meat…

  2. Christy says:

    Yuck…fecal matter left on the meat. That is enough to make your stomach turn isn’t it? Thanks for posting the link to EWG. It gives a lot of resources in one place.

  3. Mandy says:

    It really turns my stomach to think about how our food supply is processed. Fecal mater mixed in with the meat. Unnecessary antibiotics passed down the food chain. Thanks for the informative info how to find the cleanest food supply.

  4. My husband and I raise 100% grassfed beef – our cattle are NEVER administered any type of antibiotic or hormone. We do have on our label “No added Antibiotics or Hormones” – which is not meaningless in this case. I wanted something stated on the label – for which I got approval from the USDA. True I am not a fan of how the USDA defines most of these claims that
    can be put on a label. If you can actually speak with the person that raised your meat (more typical in local sustainable systems)- that is best of all.

  5. Anna says:

    oh my…. !! Poop in the food? Yuck! Great post though.. sharing it !!!

  6. Andy says:

    Its difficult to justify raising beasts for food by feeding them waste product from wherever it comes. The days of cattle running out on fresh grass is long gone if Mr average wants to consume his daily big mac at a price that isn’t his weekly salary.
    With all the crap we feed beef – the exceptions being ethical farmers like Wendy – its no wonder they need a constant input of antibiotics just to stay alive long enough to reach slaughter.
    If you eat meat – shop around and buy from reputable ethical meat markets and farmers markets where you can be better assured of the quality.

  7. Pingback: Soylent Beef, Schmeat, and Whatever is in a McRib ...

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