When making meat-purchasing decisions today, you are sure to come across antibiotic and hormone free meat. In recent years, the use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock has raised some concerns by consumers. You may wonder what exactly this means for you as a consumer and why meat raised without antibiotics and hormones is better for you. Here’s a look at why these meats can be a healthier choice for your family and for the planet.
What Is Antibiotic-Free Meat?
If you have heard people discuss antibiotic-free meat and want to know what that means and why it matters, you are not alone. Antibiotic-free meat is any meat or poultry raised without the use of any antibiotics.
Starting in the 1950s, the FDA approved antibiotic use in animals. The use of antibiotics for animals has continued to increase over the years. According to an FDA report, 80 percent of USA antibiotics are used for animals, many of which eventually become our meat. Antibiotics are used to care for livestock and poultry and are known for treating illness. However, farmers have used them to speed up animal growth or prevent disease in crowded living conditions.
Recently, the use of antibiotics in animals has become a controversial topic among farmers, scientists and doctors, and consumers. Because of growing concerns, the FDA continues to study and regulate the effects of antibiotics in animals.
Farmers’ View: Why They Use Antibiotics for Animals
Farmers use antibiotics to make animals grow faster and prevent disease in crowded or unsanitary living conditions. Farmers argue that to keep costs lower, they need to use antibiotics. With antibiotics, farmers can sustain a bountiful supply of meat at a low price. Farmers feel eliminating antibiotics would decrease feed efficiency and production, leading to rising food costs and prices for consumers.
Scientists’ and Doctors’ Concerns About Animals and Antibiotics
Scientists and doctors fear giving too many antibiotics to animals could lead to resistant bacteria developing, resulting in increased antibiotic resistance. Currently, the level of drug-resistant bacteria is growing, which is why doctors are becoming increasingly concerned. Development of drug-resistant bacteria will decrease antibiotic effectiveness for treating human sicknesses.
Consumers’ Responses to Antibiotic Meat
Since antibiotic ineffectiveness has become a large issue, many consumers have increased their awareness of antibiotics in meat. Many are concerned the use of antibiotics in animals fuels the possibility of superbugs. Bacteria become immune as antibiotics are continually used for items such as growth promotants, and doctors may not be able to treat these bugs with antibiotics.
Those who argue for antibiotic-free meat know farmers using antibiotics can house animals in smaller areas and treat illnesses. Farmers do this instead of seeking to prevent the diseases. Prohibiting the use of antibiotics will drive change to improve animals’ living conditions. It will encourage farmers to maintain the animals’ health without using antibiotics. The additional added benefit will be consumers have healthier meat options and antibiotic ineffectiveness becomes a smaller issue.
A Consumer Reports survey shows 37 percent of consumers would be willing to pay a dollar more per pound to purchase meat free of antibiotics. Due to consumers’ increasing demand for antibiotic-free meat, grocery stores have been supplying more options. The survey indicated 57 percent of consumers found meat raised without antibiotics at their local grocery stores.
FDA Regulation of Antibiotic Meat
The growing use of antibiotics in animals has led to the FDA implementing regulations. Antibiotics in meat products are regulated to ensure producers conform to outlined standards. The FDA has time requirements for animals to be withdrawn from antibiotics before slaughter. Companies that report claims of providing meat free of antibiotics will need to provide the required documentation and gain approval to label their products as organic or raised without antibiotics.
Also, the FDA added a rule to the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) that requires farmers to obtain prescriptions for animal antibiotics. These prescriptions are only authorized to be used to prevent and treat disease. This new rule aims to help the FDA achieve its goal to stop the use of medically imported antibiotics in food-producing animals.
What Is Hormone Free Meat?
Another concern in meat production is added hormones. Hormones help animals grow and reproduce. They occur naturally in all animals. Farmers began using added hormones to promote growth in their animals and increase the rate at which animals convert their food into meat.
Hormones in U.S. beef have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Injecting hormones such as estrogen into livestock have shown an increased risk of breast cancer in humans.
Any added hormone requires FDA approval. Added hormones can come in the form of naturally occurring hormones or synthetic hormones. Naturally occurring hormones are any hormones produced throughout an animal’s lifetime. These hormones are essential for growth and reproduction. Manufactured versions of the natural hormones are called synthetic hormones.
The USDA has requirements for labeling products “raised without hormones.” Since hormones occur naturally within any animal product, if you see a meat product labeled “raised without hormones,” this means there were no added hormones. The USDA does not approve of added hormones in pork or poultry. Since all pork and poultry is hormone free, any labels must include both “raised without hormones” and “no hormones are used in the production of any pork or poultry.”
How Is Antibiotic-Free Meat Sourced?
With consumers’ growing concern for antibiotic-free meat, many companies have made a switch in their production and are committed to creating meat free of antibiotics. Major chicken producers like Tyson Foods, Foster Farms, and Perdue Farms are pledging to reduce the amount of antibiotics fed to their chickens. Tyson Foods, the largest beef supplier, has a policy of no antibiotics.
Companies that source antibiotic-free meat must maintain a regulated supply chain to ensure quality. Companies are finding ways to treat animals in a way that relies less on antibiotics. Companies like Tyson Foods are using probiotics, oregano and thyme for routine treatments instead of antibiotics.
With more and more companies sourcing meat free of antibiotics, consumers have greater access to these products. In addition to meat suppliers eliminating the use of antibiotics in their meat, restaurants and supermarkets are making sure they supply antibiotic-free meats to their customers.
How to Know Which Labels Are Antibiotic Free Certified
When you enter a grocery store and begin to search for the right food for you and your family, you are sure to come across many different labels. As consumers, we rely on the labels on our food products. Knowing what each label means can be challenging. To verify the meat you purchase is actually antibiotic free, there are labels and third-party certifications that you should search for:
- USDA Organic — To be labeled organic, the USDA bars using antibiotics, growth hormones and genetically modified feed while raising livestock. Any animal treated for an illness with antibiotics is sent to a separate facility and will not be labeled organic anymore. A product labeled organic can give you confidence that the animals did not receive
- Raised Without Antibiotics — Labels with this phrase indicate animals do not receive It is similar to organic but not certified organic. Look for a “USDA Process Verified’ shield to ensure animals did not receive antibiotics while being raised.
- Country of Origin — Because the European Union banned farmers from using antibiotics to promote growth, looking at the country of origin may indicate the meat is safe from antibiotics.
- Global Animal Partnership — Antibiotics are prohibited in cattle and pigs but may be prescribed by a veterinarian to treat sick chickens or turkeys. Hormones are also prohibited.
- Food Alliance Certified — Antibiotics are only used to treat diseases. The use of hormones is prohibited.
- American Grassfed Certified — Certification prohibits the use of hormones or antibiotics.
- Animal Welfare Certifications — Antibiotics are allowed for curing diseases, and hormones are banned.
Labeling of Meats: Deciphering What They Mean
While shopping in the grocery store, there are many unique labels you may come across. Not all are certified or mean what a consumer may think. There are many confusing labels you as a consumer should be aware of. The following labels should raise red flags that a product may not actually be antibiotic free:
- Antibiotic Free — The USDA has not legalized this term.
- No Antibiotics for Growth Promotion — The USDA does not approve this claim. Antibiotics could have been used to prevent diseases instead.
- No Antibiotic Residues — No residues indicate that for a period before the slaughtering of an animal, antibiotics were prohibited. Administering antibiotics throughout the animal’s life is not restricted.
- Natural — This label means the final product has no added colors or artificial ingredients. The natural label does not require that antibiotics are prohibited.
- Grassfed — By itself, this label does not mean animals did not receive antibiotics. If accompanied with an organic label, you can trust it is antibiotic free.
- No Hormones — If the animal did not receive hormones, this does not imply they did not receive antibiotics as well.
Knowing what labels to search for and avoid the next time you shop at the supermarket will make you an educated consumer. Looking for the right labels will ensure you get what you are looking for.
Benefits of Antibiotic-Free Meat
Consuming antibiotic-free meat will help individuals in your communities and families. There are three main advantages to consuming meat without antibiotics.
- Makes Antibiotics Effective for Fighting Disease
Scientists have shown overusing antibiotics can lead to resistance in bacteria, which makes the use of antibiotics less effective at treating diseases.
Since 60 percent of human diseases come from diseases that are communicable from animals to humans, there is growing concern about antibiotic use in animals.
Many of the following antibiotics used to cure diseases in human are the same antibiotics used in animal food production:
Using antibiotics in animals can cause them to become ineffective at treating illness in humans. Injecting antibiotics into animals can breed antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Superbugs spread through the waterways, soil and air. These germs in animals can cause deadly diseases in humans who come in contact with the animals or consume the animals. Eating antibiotic-free meats can help prevent you from consuming these infectious bacteria.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 2 million people in the United States develop infections that are antibiotic resistant, and at least 23,000 people die from these. Keeping antibiotics reserved for their purpose, to treat infections, will help ensure antibiotics are effective in treating diseases and will decrease the risk of antibiotic resistance.
- Keeps Your Family Healthy
Keeping your family healthy and strong requires a healthy diet. Eating meat free of antibiotics can positively impact the health of your family. Purchasing antibiotic and hormone free meat is an investment in your family’s health. Although the cost can be higher than meats with antibiotics, the health benefits are an exceptional investment for your family.
If you consume undercooked meat, you could get ill from bacteria, and if the animal received antibiotics, it could make treating the infection harder due to antibiotic resistance. Eating meats free of antibiotics will safeguard you from ingesting any of the drugs that remain in the animal’s tissues and help prevent your loved ones from getting potential superbugs.
- Supports the Cause for Increasing the Antibiotic-Free Meat Supply
Each time you purchase antibiotic-free meat, you are supporting a cause and increasing the demand for these products. Farmers and grocery stores take a stand to aim to supply antibiotic-free meat. As you purchase these meats, you support farmers and grocery stores that sell them.
As more individuals seek places that sell options without antibiotics and added hormones, additional stores will begin looking for ways to provide this to consumers. This increase in demand will help encourage more companies to seek to eliminate the use of antibiotics in raising livestock.
Enjoy Yalla Mediterranean Dishes With Antibiotic- and Hormone Free Meats
Finding a restaurant that provides healthy and delicious meals is challenging. Finding antibiotic and hormone free meats can add an additional challenge. Yalla Mediterranean makes it easy for you to find flavorful food made with healthy, fresh ingredients that are antibiotic and hormone free. By catering to special diets including vegetarian, vegan, dairy free and gluten free, we offer a meal option for every member of your family.
Our menu includes wraps, salads, and rice plates with vegetables. The variety of meats we provide include chicken, steak, lamb and salmon. Fresh foods prepared from scratch each morning with local produce make up each dish. With our unique sides for each season, you won’t want to miss the chance to try our new, changing dishes.
At Yalla Mediterranean, we understand the importance of healthy eating, which is why we focus on offering quality, fresh ingredients. The dairy we use in our yogurt and feta comes from family-run farms that raise cows on natural diets. Our salmon is wild-caught by fishermen committed to protecting our oceans. We use naturally raised, hormone and antibiotic-free meat and poultry.
Our fresh ingredients and variety of options will help keep each member of your family healthy and happy. Find a location in California to enjoy our delicious, antibiotic and hormone free meat dishes today.