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How To Avoid Antibiotics in Meat

antibiotics in meat

About 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. – or 30 million pounds – are given to livestock. Much of the time, animals are given antibiotics to make them grow faster or to suppress diseases that occur in overcrowded and inhumane living conditions. This long-term, low-level use of antibiotics increases the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria…which means that when we humans get sick, life-saving antibiotic treatment may not work.

What can you do to stay safe?

Buy meat, dairy and eggs from farmers who raise animals in humane conditions. (This is not a guarantee, but it may lower your risk of getting food poisoning from resistant bacteria, and helps support a healthy food system).

Here’s a rundown on common meat claims, what they mean, and how to shop for healthier meat:


The USDA prohibits the use of this term, since all foods should be free of antibiotic residues.

No antibiotics administered or Raised without antibiotics

The animal was never given antibiotics, according to the company selling the product. There is no third-party agency verifying these claims, so trusting this label means trusting the company who produces it.

Brands that report they meet this criteria: Whole Foods supermarket, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Applegate, Coleman Natural Foods, Murray’s Chicken, Niman Ranch, Heritage Acres, Laura’s Lean Beef, Harvestland, Columbus Farm to Fork Naturals, Bell & Evans.

USDA Certified Organic or American Grassfed Certified

Use of antibiotics is prohibited. Any food bearing these labels has been verified by a third-party agency.

How to find: Look for the USDA Certified Organic Seal or find an American Grassfed producer here.

Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved

Animals raised in humane conditions where antibiotics are permitted only to treat sick animals.

How to find: Check Certified Humane and Animal Welfare Approved for products in your area.

Note: I personally feel comfortable with a farmer using antibiotics to treat a sick animal when necessary – if the farm is a spacious place where animals can graze and engage in natural and healthy behaviors.  It’s the sustained use of antibiotics to treat chronic disease caused by overcrowding and inhumane practices, or to stimulate growth, that I don’t support.

Source for antibiotic data: FDA NARMS Report 2011.

Source for meat label information: CSPI Nutrition Action Healthletter May 2013.

antibiotics in meat

Also, congratulations to our randomly chosen Applegate hot dog giveaway winner, Kelly!

Antibiotics in meat


  • Alexis
    June 28, 2013 at 9:07 am


    Thank you for this information. I share it with my husband. He typically buys the meats for grilling and I want him to be armed with information!

  • Amelia
    June 28, 2013 at 10:45 am

    My pleasure! Let me know if he needs help finding great meat options in your area 🙂

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