When animals that are being raised “antibiotic free” – meaning without antibiotics – get sick, they may be treated with antibiotics. These animals are separated from the non-antibiotic group, treated and later marketed as conventional meat after proper withdrawal times are met. Not treating a sick animal with antibiotics that can cure an illness would be inhumane and could lead to the animal’s death. Antibiotics are only one tool in farmers’ and ranchers’ overall animal care strategy, which also includes proper housing, good nutrition and personal attention. It’s important to note that antibiotics are only one tool farmers use along with vaccines, appropriate housing, good ventilation, proper nutrition and biosecurity measures.
According to the USDA, The term “no antibiotics added” may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.
When antibiotics are used, it’s also important to remember that farmers and ranchers follow specific withdrawal periods to ensure animals are free of any antibiotics before entering the food system.
Chris Chinn says, “We are required to log all antibiotic use on our farm. This means if we use an antibiotic on a pig or a sow, we have to record the date, medication given, dose and withdrawal length. We are audited by the plant that purchases our hogs, and they inspect these records a couple times a year. They also review my feed records to see what we feed our hogs. They want to make sure they are purchasing a healthy hog from me.” You can read more about her story here.