Nearly 70% of all antibiotics manufactured and sold in the U.S. are used in animal agriculture — a staggering amount, by any reckoning. Not only do these antibiotics end up in the meat we consume, but their necessity, and in such volume, leads to the obvious conclusion that the animals providing our meat are being raised in deplorable conditions.
Fortunately, people are becoming more aware of the potential dangers of consuming too many antibiotics, whether from meat and animal products or otherwise. The more that people opt out of consuming these types of meats and other animal products, the more manufacturers will be forced to change their practices, ideally to the point where antibiotics are not needed so routinely.
You may have seen some fast food restaurants advertising that the meat they serve is 100% antibiotic free, and this is a huge step in the right direction. This is important not only for the health of the animals in question, but also our own heath, should we choose to eat meat and animal products in the first place.
According to various public health agencies, antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest health threats facing the U.S. (and the world) right now, and the rampant use of antibiotics in livestock production carries much of the blame.
What Can We Do?
The best (and perhaps most obvious) thing you can do to slow this epidemic of antibiotic use in animals and animal products is to stop purchasing from companies that use them. This forces manufacturers to opt for safer, more humane practices.
Many people argue that it is too expensive to buy exclusively organic meat and animal products, which is definitely true for the majority of the population, but that argument relies on the belief that animal products need to be consumed at every day, and even every meal.
Cutting down the amount that you consume, even just by implementing a “Meatless Monday” each week, will go a long way toward reducing your grocery bills so you can afford to buy better quality meat from animals that were raised in a healthy environment.
Choosing restaurants responsibly is another small change you can make. Do your research when eating out and stop supporting the companies that source the worst products when it comes to antibiotic use. Luckily, many different groups, including Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defence Council, Consumers Union, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Keep Antibiotics Working, and Centre for Food Safety, all contributed to research and writing for the Chain Reaction II report, titled “How Top Restaurants Rate on Reducing Use of Antibiotics in Their Meat Supply.”
Using surveys from the companies and information that was already available to the public, they created an industry scorecard assessing company policies on antibiotic use. Considerations included implementation of these policies as reflected in current meat and poultry purchasing, and transparency about antibiotic use.
You may be just as shocked as I am about some of these results, especially when it comes to Subway. But we have recently learned that chicken from Subway is actually loaded with soy products as filler, which might explain their high score — with less chicken to actually purchase, they can purchase more wisely. (I am by no means excusing their dishonesty.)
Even though many of these companies rank poorly, they have all improved significantly since last year, when the first Chain Reaction report was released. You can take a look at that for comparison here.
In the grand scheme of things, these numbers are good news. Thanks to consumer activism and reports such as these, that raise awareness about these issues for the general public, we can now make more mindful decisions about which fast food restaurants to frequent. These reports also put more pressure on the companies such as Starbucks to quite literally clean up their act!
Vote with your dollar, raise awareness, and be the change! We are truly and tangibly changing the world by following these simple steps.