November 18-24, 2020 is the World Health Organization’s annual Antibiotic Awareness Week and we are taking this time to shine a light on the looming antibiotic resistance crisis.
Many people are surprised to learn that in recent years antibiotic use in pork and beef production has been going up, not down. This stands in stark contrast to Niman Ranch; the brand was founded on the belief that animals could be raised in a humane and sustainable way without the misuse of antibiotics. We talk about this fact often, however seeing antibiotic sales in the U.S. rise for cattle and hogs, we realized that we have more work to do to create awareness for why Niman Ranch doesn’t use antibiotics and how eaters can help.
Antibiotics in Agriculture 101
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.
Each time an antibiotic is used—in people or animals—it provides the opportunity for bacteria to build up resistance. That’s why it is crucial that doctors, farmers, ranchers and veterinarians do all they can to ensure antibiotics are only used when absolutely necessary.
Here are a few statistics about antibiotic use on farms:
- Nearly two-thirds of all medically important antibiotics are sold for livestock.
- More than 90% of these antibiotics are distributed to animals en masse—in the name of “prevention”—not to treat individual sick animals but often to compensate for overcrowded or stressful conditions for the animals.
- The latest FDA data found that antibiotic sales for pigs and cattle have increased by 17% and 8%, respectively, over the previous year. That’s not the right direction.
How Eaters Can Help Fight Antibiotic Resistance
1. Vote with your wallet – Support farmers and ranchers, like those in the Niman Ranch network, who raise their animals without antibiotics. The phrase “put your money where your mouth is” applies well here: each time you buy meat raised without antibiotics, that shows that this issue is important to eaters and drives change.
2. Lift up your voice – When shopping or eating meat, don’t be afraid to ask restaurants, grocery stores, vendors at the farmers market or at the butcher shop how the animals were raised and if antibiotics were used.
3. Support policy – Engage with local, state and federal policymakers on antibiotic use in livestock. Contact your representatives and let them know this issue is important to you and that you want their leadership to ensure antibiotics are used responsibly in agriculture.
“The solutions are at our finger tips,” said Lena Brook, Food Campaigns Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The more vocal you are—whether it’s voting with your wallet, talking to the butcher at the grocery counter or sending an email to your congressperson—all of that really matters. Your voice really matters.”
Learn More about Antibiotic Use in Agriculture
- Watch Lance Price, Founding Director of George Washington University’s Antibiotic Resistance Action Center, and Lena Brook, Food Campaigns Director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, discuss antibiotics in agriculture and how eaters can help drive change on this important public health issue.
- Listen to a recording of a panel hosted by Harvard Law School with experts, including Niman Ranch General Manager Chris Oliviero, discussing how research, collaboration and policy can encourage better antibiotic stewardship in animal agriculture.