“When meat is ‘antibiotic free’ does that mean that the meds work their way out of the animal, or that instead of treating the animal people do nothing?”
This was a question I received from a friend regarding the marketing term “antibiotic free.” She’d been seeing the term adorning food labels and restaurant ads, and quite frankly, she was confused and concerned by what the term really meant.
Understanding her concern and sense of bewilderment, this was my response:
“When restaurants use the term ‘antibiotic free’ it usually means that the animals were never given antibiotics. But, that is really confusing because ALL meat that you eat is antibiotic free – even if the animal was given an antibiotic. Like you said, antibiotics leave the system after a period of time. It is against the law to send an animal to harvest before that period of time is up.
People who raise the natural or organic beef cattle (or other meat animals) do actually treat sick animals with antibiotic if they need it. Those animals are then segregated and do not qualify as natural or organic. They would be sold as conventional and would still be antibiotic free when they are harvested.”
Antibiotic Free What Does That Even Mean
Her question was as legit as they come. And I could be wrong, but my suspicion is that she is not the only one who has been confused by this type of marketing. Because, seriously – food labeling/marketing these days has a tendency to be just as confusing as it is informative.
There are just so many buzzwords/phrases making their way onto food labels and into restaurant ads. And, all of those buzzwords/phrases make it difficult to decipher the label and even harder to know exactly what said label means. So, allow me to elaborate a little more on this particular buzz-phrase and my response to my friend’s question as it relates to raising beef.
ALL meat is antibiotic free.
True story – all meat is antibiotic free before it finds its way to the meat case.
Those of us who raise beef work closely with our veterinarians, follow best practice Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) guidelines, and abide by all withdrawal time laws to ensure the safety of the meat we raise. We do all of this not just because it is against the law to do it any other way, but because, it is the right way. Plain and simple.
Organic farmers and ranchers use antibiotics too.
Organic farmers also have close working relationships with their veterinarians and follow BQA standards. Because the truth is – animals raised on organic farms and ranches can also fall ill. And if/when they do, they are treated with the appropriate antibiotic to help them get well again.
These animals are then segregated and withdrawal time laws are followed. While these animals no longer qualify for the organic label, they still qualify to provide safe, healthy, nutritious, and antibiotic free beef.
Farmers and ranchers are charged with an extremely important responsibility – that of growing food for the masses. That responsibility is not something that is taken lightly. We are consumers too and having safe, healthy food options for nourishing our families, and yours, is important to us. That’s why we do things like consult with veterinarians, adhere to BQA standards, and judiciously use antibiotics.
Please, feel free to use the Contact Me page, or comment section, if you have any further questions about how we use antibiotics to raise safe, healthy beef.