A majority of Americans want antibiotic-free meat, according to a national poll released by Consumer Reports. The report, “Meat on Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It,” is available at Consumer Reports.org.
The release of the poll coincides with the launch of a new marketplace campaign by Consumers Union, the “public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports,” urging supermarkets to sell only meat raised without antibiotics. The campaign begins at Trader Joe’s, a supermarket Consumers Union calls “one of the leading national chains best poised to make this commitment.” Consumers Union also sent a letter to USDA asking the agency to tighten labeling standards for meat raised without antibiotics.
“We are asking supermarkets to step up to the challenge and tell their suppliers to procure only meat and poultry that has been raised without antibiotics,” said 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. We are calling on Trader Joe’s to be a leader and make this change now.”
The release of the poll by Consumer Reports is sure to draw criticism from many producers and livestock groups. Earlier this month a coalition of agricultural organizations sent a letter to New York Congresswoman Louise Slaughter – who is seeking to severely restrict antibiotic use in livestock – asking her to recognize the stringent federal approval process and regulation of antibiotics, the lack of human health risks from their judicious use in livestock production and the benefits they offer in food animal production.
Members of the coalition include the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, Animal Health Institute, American Veterinary Medical Association, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Meat Association and the National Turkey Federation.
According to the Consumer Reports poll, 86 percent of consumers polled said that meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local market. More than 60 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay at least five cents a pound more for meat raised without antibiotics and 37 percent said they would pay $1 or more per pound for such meat products.