Antibiotic Use in Livestock

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Antibiotic Use in Livestock

Two of the common consumer perceptions regarding food with antibiotics are that it has the inferior quality and that it poses a health risk because it decreases the effectiveness of such drugs in humans. Those opinions stem from the growing interest in sustainability and more health awareness, specifically related to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


Consumer Perceptions

Food with Antibiotics is Inferior

  • Overall, consumers have a negative perception of food with antibiotics. Research shows that they consider it inferior in terms of quality and unethical, even though there is not enough scientific data to support it.
  • According to the survey by Consumer Reports, 78% of consumers think that meat producers shouldn't give antibiotics to healthy animals.
  • Another research by the Food Marketing Institute found that 52% of consumers believe that more products should be free from hormones and antibiotics.
  • Furthermore, 60% of people surveyed by Consumer Reports would pay more for an antibiotics-free meat dish at the restaurant.
  • As they are concerned about the quality of food they eat, which they perceive as strongly associated with the content of antibiotics, 86% of consumers want meat producers to disclose the information on the amount and type of antibiotics used.

Basis for the Perception

  • There is more awareness about the social and environmental impact of food choices. An increasing number of customers are opting for sustainable products.
  • Overall, sales of sustainable products are growing faster than sales of conventional ones.
  • Many consumers get their food-related knowledge from social media and other online sources. The information they find there leads them to believe that by buying antibiotics-free meat, they are contributing to animal welfare.

Meat with Antibiotics is a Health Risk

  • 54% of consumers polled by Consumer Reports are aware that eating food with antibiotics may decrease their effectiveness in humans.
  • For this reason, 43% are highly concerned by producers feeding antibiotics to animals.

Basis for the Perception

  • Around one-third of Americans know someone who went through an antibiotic-resistant bacterial illness.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) thinks antibiotic-resistant bacteria are one of the most pressing health risks. It also says that research proves the negative effect of feeding antibiotics to animals by meat producers.
  • There is also a global action by WHO to increase awareness about antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which may further contribute to the perception.


Consequences for the Livestock Industry

  • The consequences are similar for both perceptions, which is why they will be discussed jointly.
  • Antibiotic-free and grass-fed claims on meat and poultry increased sales by 4.8%.
  • Negative consumer perceptions related to meat with antibiotics are the main driver behind the rise of antibiotic-free poultry production.
  • Overall, the chicken industry is quicker to react to consumer demands. So far, changes in the beef industry haven't been that significant.
  • It is forecast that by 2021, 25% of all products in stores will have sustainability claims. This includes the livestock industry.
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