We've been demanding it for ages, and now it seems like someone is finally listening and doing something. This week the FDA announced they would take steps to phase out antibiotics in meat -- or more accurately, they will help phase out the use of some antibiotics in animals raised for meat.
In case you haven't been following this issue, animals raised for meat are commonly given antibiotics not because they are sick, but to help protect against diseases (given the crowded conditions) and to help them grow faster and thus get on supermarket shelves faster. Doctors and parents became concerned that the drugs were helping spawn generations of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and making it harder to treat sick people, among other problems.
The FDA says it's asking pharmaceutical companies to stop labeling antibiotics that are important for treating diseases in humans as acceptable for increasing growth speed in animals. That would then make it illegal to use antibiotics on well animals. Amazingly enough, they are actually getting the cooperation of many pharmaceutical companies. Non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animals raised for meat may become a thing of the past!
So what does this mean for us?
1. Price of meat: We don't know yet if this change will make meat more expensive -- or less. Meat producers have resisted this change by saying it would make meat more expensive, but there are so many other, different factors involved it's impossible to say. We'll have to wait and see.
2. Meat taste: This shouldn't affect the taste or texture of meat significantly.
3. When it's happening: Companies will have three years to comply, but it could take even longer before we really see the results take effect. In the meantime, many companies and restaurants are already trying to decrease or phase out meat from animals raised with antibiotics.
4. And then what: If we were to phase out the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in animals... well, the hope is that we'll see a huge decline in cases of infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This would make us healthier overall. We'll have to try it to see if it works, of course.
Were you aware of the issues with antibiotics and meat?
Image via 46137/Flickr