Use of antibiotics in livestock animals

According to the Center for Disease Control, the overuse of antibiotic drugs in livestock animals can cause a drug-resistance in bacteria. Overuse occurs when meat producers use antibiotics to promote faster growth in livestock animals while feeding them less. However, overuse of antibiotics does not usually occur when used in the case of a sick animal. The United States Food and Drug Administration has introduced a strategy that recommends antibiotic usage only in cases of animals with bacterial illnesses.

The two Chipotle advertisements we watched in class piqued my interest about meats raised using antibiotics. Chipotle has made many claims to not selling meat products that come from animals that have been exposed to antibiotics. However, their claim is not quite true. Furthermore, their claim greatly limits the amount of meat they can use.


For example, when humans are sick, we are often given antibiotics to fight off bacterial infections. When animals are sick with a bacterial infection, they are given the same treatment. Because of their strict promise of meats produced without the use of antibiotics, Chipotle has had to sell many animals that were given antibiotics for bacterial infection use. These animals are sold for less money than Chipotle originally paid, losing some money for the company. However, this can become a problem when the company encounters problems, such as meat shortages.

What is the most interesting about this is the way Chipotle has framed the use of antibiotics. The videos we watched clearly made a villain out companies who use meat sourced from producers who use antibiotics. While the videos also exposed aspects of factory farming, antibiotic usage was a major theme in both videos. However, the extreme and sweeping notion that all antibiotic usage is terrible has caused them to run into problems with sourcing ‘good’ meat.

This meat, clean from antibiotics, is not always available. In these situations, it has been Chipotle’s policy to source meat from more conventional backgrounds. In September of 2015, Time Magazine reported that Chipotle uses antibiotic-free meat about 90 percent of the time. Because of the availability, Chipotle has had to slightly relax their no-antibiotic claim.

– Chelsea Walters


Time Article about Antibiotic Use in Meats & Fast Food
CDC Page about Antibiotic Use in Livestock
NPR Article about Chipotle

3 thoughts on “Use of antibiotics in livestock animals

  1. I found your blog to be interesting, I have always wondered how “pure” Chipotle truly is compared to other food industries. Although, the percentage in which they don’t use anti-antibiotic meat came as a surprise to me. I found 90% to be exceptionally high compared to what I had imagined in my head. This is due to the idea that in order to run such an intense and continuously growing food company, meat is extremely high on the list of produce needed. All companies must eventually bend, or even break, their company claim and to only have 10 percent as their “bend” is, I believe, pretty good. How would you compare them to other food companies, for example McDonald’s? That would probably be a pretty outrages difference!

    -Josie Silvey


  2. Antibiotics are not used to make animals larger while feeding them less, growth hormones are. Antibiotics are used to maintain herd health and protect the farm from communicable diseases. The best way to ease off of this overuse is to wait until an animal shows symptoms of a disease and then use prescribed antibiotics given by a veterinarian. But the animals we eat – cows, pigs, chickens, etc. – are prey animals, and refuse to show signs of weakness or disease so not to be picked out by a predator. By the time an animal shows signs of illness, it is well past time to be treated and the disease can spread to the entire herd. In extreme cases, this disease can wipe out the entire herd and bankrupt the farm.

    Most believe that the ‘large corporations’ are the source of the problem, but it is a problem that is faced by small time farmers as well. Instead of crucifying the farmers for their use of antibiotics and demanding that they stop, we should work with them to find another solution to this problem without demanding the farmer take the risk of losing everything.

    – Jennifer Brees


  3. Is MSG bad for you? Most people would say unequivocally yes. The truth is, this whols notion was started by a soup company, in much the same way chipotle is using antibiotics, to elevate itself from its competition. There is nothing worse for you about MSG than any other flavor addative. The FDA never denounced MSG nor have any major studies supported this soup companies claim, nonetheless the stigma has been created. Most people like a straight forward black and white answer, because it’s easier to learn, recite, and even follow. With regards to antibiotics much of the same principal applies. Can bacteria build up a resistance to drugs, certainly, evolution is capable of miraculous things (see Homo Sapians). Do we use antibiotics on animals? Yes. Do humans use them to fight potentially life threatening infections? Yes. So with a limited amount of data you could conclude that using antibiotics on animals, especially in large quantities, could lead to a super strain of E.Coli that could wipe out the human race. This, however, is not the full story. Antibiotics. It’s a whole subset of medicine, not just one pill, one formula, one resistance. Animals use a vast array or different antibiotics and so do humans, we have intentionally limited overlap for the exact concern above (amoungst others, but that’s not super important right now). Tetracycline, for instance, makes up the largest percentage of livestock antibiotics, yet makes up only 4% of human antibiotic volume. You can read more about specifics here
    But in the mean time remember, corporations are out to make money, and fear is often the best tool to drive you right into their store. I’m not saying we shouldn’t monitor the antibiotics situation, or any other for that matter, but make sure you get your data from a trusted independent source… not the guys selling you a burrito.


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