Antibiotics in Meat Production

Vet administering antibiotics

Antibiotics, even those important to human medicine, are frequently used for rapid growth promotion in livestock  and poultry and to prevent illness in animals living in cramped and unhealthy conditions. The FDA estimates that animal agriculture accounts for 70 percent of all U.S. antibiotic use. 

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics in the meat industry is contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistance in the U.S. and across the world. This serious public health issue is responsible for 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths each year.  Read the latest research here and here

What does my food have to do with antibiotic resistance? Healthcare Without Harm

Investor Campaign on Antibiotics

ICCR members urge producers, food companies and restaurant chains to commit to being responsible stewards of antibiotics use.   ICCR endorses  the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return Initiative’s (FAIRR) Best Practice Policy On Antibiotics Stewardship and we encourage food companies, including both meat producers and purchasers (such as retailers and restaurants), to refer to this as guidance in the development of their individual policies.

ICCR members encourage companies to limit antibiotic use to treat the diagnosed presence of disease in animals, and in limited circumstances to control disease outbreaks.  Antibiotics should not be used to promote animal growth or for routine disease prevention, and should be supervised by a veterinarian familiar with the premises and the animals. Further, we call on companies to work to eliminate the use of all antibiotics, including animal-only antibiotics, for purposes of growth promotion, feed efficiency and routine prevention (both prophylactic and metaphylactic use). In the interim, we call on companies to prioritize the reduction of all antibiotics classified as “medically important antimicrobials".

Specifically we call on companies to protect human and environmental health by making the following commitments across their global supply chains:

  • Adopt an enterprise-wide policy with global sourcing targets (and timelines) to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention in meat and poultry supply chain. Publically report on progress on adoption and implementation. 
  • Report on the amount of antibiotics used annually, and for what purpose through to contract farmers (may start with company-owned and then on contract farms).   Include total weight in kilograms, types of antibiotics administered and reason for administration (by species), and audit compliance against this policy using independent third-party verification and/or certification schemes. 
  • Work with livestock producers to improve husbandry practices to improve animal health and welfare, and to minimize the need for routine antibiotics use on farms (e.g., biosecurity, vaccination, hygiene, and animal welfare practices that include avoiding overcrowding and excessive group size, reducing stress, enabling natural behaviors, maintaining good air quality and avoiding mixing). 
  • Identify the points of exposure of livestock, poultry, meat and seafood production and processing workers to antimicrobial-resistant pathogens, and develop and implement best management practices to protect workers from this growing threat. 
  • Incorporate antibiotics stewardship into waste and water management plans for all relevant production facilities to reduce the potential spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the disposal of animal waste. Adopt a management plan to reduce nutrient pollution in its supply chain with specific goals for pollution prevention and goals on reduction of wastewater discharge in facilities and throughout the supply chain 
  • Engage farmers, suppliers and other stakeholders to reduce the use of antibiotics across the industry and establish standard reporting requirements on antibiotics use. 

Together with FAIRR, As You Sow, and Green Century Capital Management, we are engaging with the following companies:

  • Aramark
  • Brinker International Inc. (Chili's)
  • Darden Restaurants, Inc.
  • Denny's Corporation
  • DineEquity, Inc.
  • Domino's Pizza
  • Hormel Foods Corp.
  • Jack in the Box Inc.
  • McDonald's Corp.
  • Restaurant Brands International
  • Sanderson Farms, Inc.
  • Starbucks Corp.
  • Wendy's International, Inc.
  • Yum! Brands, Inc.

ShareAction - Phasing Out Antibiotic Use: Too Soon to Count the Chickens?

Causes of antibiotic resistance - WHO

Which major food companies are committed to reducing antibiotic use? The Pew Charitable Trusts analyzes which companies are leading the way in a series of detailed charts:

Pew Trust table

What the Press is Saying

Reuters: Investors call on Sanderson, Denny's and McDonald's to cut antibiotics

The Guardian: How KFC, Subway and McDonald's can Help Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance

Featured Resources  

Alternatives to Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture

Superbugs and Superisks: A briefing for investors

Vaccinating salmon: How Norway avoids antibiotics in fish farming

Expanding Antibiotic Stewardship

Global investor statement on antibiotic resistance

Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return - Investor Case Studies, Volume 2: Discusses the risks and opportunities of intensive animal farming (aka concentrated animal feeding operations/CAFOs)



Chain Reaction II

How Top Restaurants Rate on Antibiotics

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic Resistance - How it happens and what you can do about