Telling Your Story

Explaining Livestock Antibiotic Use to Consumers

Most consumers have questions but no answers – it's your opportunity to educate them

Over the past few years there have been a lot of headlines about antibiotic use in livestock intended for food consumption. Most of the stories claim 70-85% of all antibiotics are given to livestock. These stories generate a lot of questions from the general population, such as:  Is it necessary to use such a high percentage of antibiotics in the livestock industry?  Are the antibiotics being administered properly?  Are more antibiotics given than necessary?  What are the ramifications for humans consuming meat from animals given antibiotics?  Are more antibiotics given than in the past? 

There are lots of questions and unknowns to the average consumer. To make these questions more concerning, there are stories that try to tie antibiotic use in animals to diseases and reduction in antibiotic effectiveness. 

A presentation that I sat in on recently noted that 80% of the antibiotics used were given to livestock, and of the antibiotics administered to livestock, 80% of those were in the form of low dosage in feed (It should be noted that this presentation was given by someone who is against using antibiotics for livestock intended for food consumption). 

The deep concern by the general population seems to be more around feeding of low dosage antibiotics rather than the occasional usage for treatment. 

If you're approached by a consumer who is concerned about antibiotic use, it might be helpful to explain why a rancher might choose to use a low dosage of antibiotics. Also, the average person does not know about the withdrawal period that you as a rancher must comply with. There may also be questions of whether or not all ranchers follow the withdrawal period as prescribed. It might be helpful to explain the process that you go through on your farm.

A friend shared this article that breaks down where antibiotics are used.  I (really, really) encourage you to take the time to read this article through as it talks about the number of head of animals compared to people.  The article also discusses the dosage of antibiotics based on weight.

This is your opportunity to build trust with your consumer-customers.

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