Statement from Lance B. Price Founder of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center on USDA Announcement That it Will Re-examine How it Substantiates Animal Raising Claims

June 14, 2023

Brightly colored pills shaped into a cow

June 14, 2023 -- “I applaud today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it will re-examine how the agency substantiates animal raising claims that companies use to market their meat and poultry products. Given the confusing proliferation of animal raising claims, from antibiotic use to humane treatment to pasture raised, it is more important than ever for consumers to know these claims are backed not only by standards, but also by rigorous documentation, farm audits, and empirical testing. Companies know consumers are moved by animal rights so they often link reduced antibiotic use claims to improved animal welfare. These claims must be backed by empirical testing to validate producers who are truthfully using these claims and protect consumers from false and misleading labels.

“It’s particularly important to us that the “Raised without Antibiotics” (and related) label claim was included in the list of claims under review. ARAC and our partner, Food ID, recently conducted a study that found a substantial portion of cattle destined for the ‘Raised without Antibiotics’ market had actually been given antibiotics. Our findings were published in Science in April 2022. Consumers pay a premium when purchasing RWA products. They should get what they are paying for, and society as a whole should benefit from genuine reduction or elimination of antibiotic use in animal agriculture. Equally important, consumers should be able to trust in the USDA-verified claims on all meat and poultry products they buy, whether in the grocery store or online.

“It is particularly important that the agency said it will conduct a study similar to ours this year and, depending on its findings, could require companies to conduct empirical testing to ensure animals raised under the RWA label claim are free from antibiotic use. The agency said it could also decide to conduct its own periodic testing of animals raised under the RWA label. RWA production is a market-based solution to a serious public health issue, but the system only works if labels are verified.

“Antibiotic resistance is now the third leading cause of death in the world. We must reduce use of the drugs in all sectors to slow the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria. In food animal production, antibiotics are often used to compensate for overcrowding and dirty living conditions. Using these life-saving medicines to prop up industrialized farming must end, and consumers must have trusted options to support farmers who use these precious drugs responsibly.”

About the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center

The Antibiotic Resistance Action Center (ARAC) at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University was created to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics by engaging in research, advocacy, and science-based policy. ARAC is focused on finding out-of-the box solutions to antibiotic resistance, one of the greatest public health threats of our time. Visit our website and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @battlesuperbugs