Consumers Union recently released a new report called “Meat Without Drugs,” highlighting its polling in which consumers said they want antibiotic free meat and calling on supermarkets to stop selling meat from livestock and poultry that have been treated with antibiotics. Due to the attention that antibiotics have received recently, the reactions of consumers to the polling questions posed are understandable. It is our hope that consumers will come to understand that leading scientists and groups like the American Veterinary Medical Association support prudent use and view antibiotics as essential tools for good animal health at certain times, just as they are essential to human health.
It is interesting that despite the extensive media coverage the report received, few in the media sought perspectives from independent experts on the topic. Following the report’s release, Dr. Scott Hurd, former USDA undersecretary for food safety and one of the leading animal antibiotics researchers in the nation wrote a response on his blog with perspective on a world without animal antibiotics. It is a post that everyone interested in this issue should read.
Beyond antibiotics, choice is a major issue here. Currently, the meat and poultry industry provides a wide range of choices to consumers in the retail case. Retail stores work to meet the demands of their shoppers by offering a wide array of products. It is wrong to ask these stores to limit choices as Consumer Reports is asking. Consumers may vote in the free marketplace by buying the products they prefer at prices that are right for their families, and retailers and meat and poultry producers will respond to those signals.