A majority of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics to be sold in their local supermarket, according to a new national poll conducted by Consumer Reports. Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has simultaneously launched a new marketplace campaign, urging supermarkets to sell only meat raised without antibiotics.
According to Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, "Antibiotics are losing their potency in people, leading to a major national health crisis, and we need to drastically reduce their use in food animals."
Eighty-six percent of consumers polled indicated that meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket. More than 60% of respondents stated that they would be willing to pay at least five cents a pound more for meat raised without antibiotics. More than a third (37%) would pay a dollar or more extra per pound.
The majority of respondents (72%) were extremely or very concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed, including the potential to create "superbugs" that are immune or resistant to antibiotics. More than 60% were just as concerned with the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed allowing them to be raised in unsanitary and crowded conditions for livestock, human consumption of antibiotic residue, and environmental effects due to agricultural runoff containing antibiotics.
Meat and poultry raised without antibiotics does not have to be expensive. However, prices of "no antibiotics administered" meat and poultry vary considerably depending on store, type of meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) and cut.
Consumer Reports has identified a few labels that consumers should not rely upon as indicators that a product has truly had no antibiotics throughout the growing process. Labels such as "antibiotic-free," "no antibiotic residues," and "no antibiotic growth promotants" are not approved by USDA and should not appear in the marketplace. They could mislead consumers. Also misleading but USDA-approved is "natural" which can be confusing since it does not ensure that antibiotics were not used.
"Consumers who want to buy meat raised without antibiotics need a system they can rely on to feel secure that the labels on those products are meaningful and accurate. Our shoppers and research found several instances of labels that could mislead consumers to believe they were buying meat from animals that were not given antibiotics, when in fact that is not necessarily the case," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director, Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports. "Consumers would benefit from one standard, meaningful, USDA-verified label that is consistent on all meat and poultry products from animals raised without antibiotics."[Source: "Meat On Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It." Consumer Reports National Research Center. 20 June 2012. Web. 24 June 2012.]