On Tuesday, another restaurant chain joined the ranks of the farmer-maddening crowd. If you have farmer friends on social media you may have noticed a flurry of comments and commentary about Subway’s announcement to source meat from animals raised without antibiotics.

For a quick sampling of farmer responses check out: Subway Announces A Bullet is their Choice of Treatment for Sick Animals…Did Subway Make the Right Call?  & Eat Fresh & Stay Politically Correct…and more

Farmers are a little fed up with the rhetoric and fear mongering surrounding antibiotic use. The frustration stems from the fact that while farmers provide the raw ingredients for our food, most of the time they get left out of these conversations and are villianized by corporate marketing decisions driven by misguided opinions rather than real food safety risks.

To take a look at the meat of the matter, check out five reasons you can rest easy about antibiotics used for animals for this week’s Friday Five:

  1. ALL meat is antibiotic free. Any animal treated with an antibiotic must be held out of the food supply until the withdrawal time for the drug administered is up. Just like any drug used by people, after a certain number of days the antibiotic is no longer present in the animal’s body. Specific withdrawal times for each drug are set by USDA & FDA, plus meat is also inspected & tested for the presence of antibiotics. For more about withdrawal times and how antibiotics are used on the farm, check out this video from the North American Meat Institute.
  2. Veterinary Oversight:  Similar to prescription drugs for people, antibiotics can only be given to animals with a directive from a veterinarian. To learn more, check out this info  from the Animal Health Institute.
  3. Quality Animal Care to Limit Antibiotic Use: Did you know that on many of today’s pig farms, workers must shower before entering the farm everyday? That’s just one way farmers work to limit the need for antibiotics by limiting exposure to disease.  Other tools farmers use to keep animals healthy include vaccinations, feeding animals a balanced diet specifically formulated for their age and needs and providing shelter from inclement weather or extreme heat. Take a closer look at antibiotics & animal care on the farm herehere or here.
  4. Most Animal Antibiotics are not used in Human Medicine: Antibiotics are classified into different categories and about 70% of the antibiotics used in animals are rarely used for people (Tetracyclines) or not used for people at all (Ionophores). Check out this infographic for a more detailed breakdown.
  5. Antibiotics are Expensive…and as a result farmers have no incentive to overuse them. Check out this Facebook post from the Peterson Farm Bros that explains more about the cost of antibiotics.

Have a question about antibiotic use on the farm? Ask us!

UPDATE: Subway revised their statement on animal care & antibiotic use as of 10-23-15. For more, check out this post or see Subway’s policy here.