Antiobiotic-Free Meat is Safer, Right?

Photo © PhotoXpress / Edward Stephens

Based on media reports, many of us are lead to believe that meat raised without antibiotics is safer and healthier for us than the alternative. And because the media reports it, this must be true, right?

Not necessarily.

In a recent post on Food, Mommy!, blogger Jennifer Elwood describes a news segment in Kentucky about antibiotic use in meat and food labels. The segment, repackaged from Consumer Reports, didn’t tell the whole story, so Jennifer shared her thoughts with the reporter.

Jennifer writes:

My “take-a-way” from the story was that superbugs occurred in meat only from animals that were fed antibiotics any time in their lives. You led the viewers to believe that if they purchased meat that says “No antibiotics ever” or “Organic,” this would be a safer option.

She goes on to describe why that’s not completely accurate.

Superbugs can be in any meat from anywhere, whether they were given antibiotics or not. But, I did not hear the Consumer Reports lady say they tested any meat and found superbugs. In fact, she didn’t say she tested meat at all. While contamination can occur, meat is routinely tested. This would have been an excellent opportunity to stress that all meat should be cooked to the recommended internal temperature. Food safety is critical.

Jennifer also highlights a key fact that the reporter failed to mention: All animals must be antibiotic free when they arrive at the processor. “USDA routinely checks this and removes any contaminated product they may find. In fact, they have stepped up their monitoring process,” she writes.

Segments like this one point to the need for consumers to take media reports with a grain of salt, as well as take initiative on their own to research questions by consulting unbiased sources and asking folks on both sides of the issue.

The fact is, the media won’t always tell the full story, nor do they have time or space. It’s up to us as consumers to gather facts from reputable sources and make decisions for ourselves instead of the media filtering information for us. is a great resource for facts and research by reputable sources on topics like antibiotics and food safety.

Jennifer closes her post by mentioning the recent call for farmers and media to talk to one another. One example is farmer Ryan Goodman on CNN’s Eatocracy – No Bull: Start a Conversation with a Farmer. Similarly, at CommonGround, we want to encourage folks to come to our volunteers with questions. We are happy to share our personal experiences raising and growing food, as well as how and why we do things on our farms and ranches. Please let us know what questions you have. We can help provide answers from a farmer’s perspective so you can make informed decisions about your food.

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