“No growth-promoting antibiotics” on meat and poultry: Does it add value?

A claim of “no growth-promoting antibiotics” on a meat or poultry label sounds good, but we think it can be misleading.

Keep in mind that medically important antibiotics are no longer used for growth promotion. In January 2017, the Food and Drug Administration reported that all pharmaceutical companies had stopped selling medically important antimicrobials specifically for the purpose of growth promotion in farm animals. Antibiotics, whether medically important or not, can still be used on farms for disease prevention, control, and treatment.

So “no growth-promoting antibiotics” almost entirely reflects the current norm in meat and poultry production and therefore adds little value. Instead, look for a labeling claim that ensures that antibiotics weren’t used at all, such as “no antibiotics, ever,” “raised without antibiotics,” or a similar claim. Even better, for assurance that the claim is third-party verified, look for the “USDA Organic” seal or a “USDA Process Verified” seal alongside the “raised without antibiotics” claim.

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