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February 27, 2024

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Farm Forward is Pushing Meat Companies to Take Action on Antibiotic Usage

Millions of Americans buy meat products marketed as “raised without antibiotics.” Globally, the market for antibiotic-free meat is growing significantly, likely in response to consumer concerns about the overuse of antibiotics on farms and how that impacts public health. In 2022, Farm Forward published an explosive investigation that found an antibiotic in meat labeled as “raised without antibiotics.” Following that investigation, we have pushed for changes to government regulation to ensure that meat labels and marketing are accurate. While we believe that the USDA must step in forcefully to regulate antibiotics in meat, we aren’t waiting for the government to act.

Starting in 2023, Farm Forward reached out to a number of food companies and retailers—including companies like Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Publix, and more—to urge them to protect consumers and improve farmed animal welfare. Specifically, Farm Forward sent leaders of these companies a letter asking them to:

  • Mandate that their suppliers test their “raised without antibiotics” meat products for antibiotics at certified, independent labs with high sensitivity (i.e., parts per billion).
  • Discontinue sales of products from suppliers who fail to provide assurance of accurate labeling.

Companies that sell meat—including retailers, restaurant chains, and food service providers—should take action to ensure that they maintain consumer trust.

Retailers like Publix, Walmart, and Trader Joe’s sell products with labels like “Raised Without Antibiotics” and “No Antibiotics Ever.” Some companies go further and claim that they sell mostly or only products raised without antibiotics. Retailers like Sprouts Farmers Market and Panera Bread, which have reputations for being committed to more “natural” foods, have explicit antibiotic policies for meat products (e.g., see Sprouts’ page for its beef butcher shop, which claims cattle “and are never given antibiotics or added hormones … ever!”). Unless companies test animals to ensure antibiotics aren’t present, we believe consumers should be skeptical of those claims.

We’ve reached out to these companies encouraging them to take action on the usage of antibiotics in their supply chain. If they’re going to market products as antibiotic free, then they ought to put in the effort to verify that the claims are true.  As companies respond we will update you about whether the companies have policies in place to ensure that you can trust their “antibiotic free” labeling and marketing.

Among the companies we have engaged with are:

  • Applegate
  • Aramark
  • ButcherBox
  • Compass Group USA
  • Food Lion
  • Harris Teeter
  • Meijer
  • Natural Grocers
  • Panda Express
  • Publix
  • Sprouts Natural Grocer
  • Sweetgreen
  • Target
  • The Fresh Market
  • Trader Joe’s
  • Walmart
  • Wegmans