Antibiotic-free meat preferred by consumers: poll

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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YONKERS, NY – A recent Consumer Reports poll showed a majority of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics.

The national poll is part of a report called Meat On Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consuers Can Do to Stop It.

Among the poll’s key findings:

  • Eighty-six percent of respondents indicated that meat raised without antibiotics should be available at their local supermarket.
  • More than 60 percent of respondents said they would pay at least 5 cents a lb. more for antibiotic-free meat. Roughly 37 percent said they would pay an extra $1 per lb.
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents said they were extremely or very concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed. More than 60 percent of consumers polled said they were just as concerned with overuse of antibiotics in animal feed as allowing livestock to be raised in “unsanitary and crowded conditions, human consumption of antibiotic residue and the environmental effects of agricultural runoff containing antibiotics."

“We are asking supermarkets to step up to the challenge and tell their suppliers to procure only meat and poultry that has been raised without antibiotics,” said Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. “Antibiotics are losing their potency in people, leading to a major national health crisis, and we need to drastically reduce their use in food animals.”

Also part of the study were results from a “secret shopper” survey of 136 supermarkets (including five stores in the 13 largest supermarket chains) 23 states. Consumers Union said the secret shoppers found wide geographic availability and big differences among chains and stores in availability of antibiotic-free meat and poultry. Shoppers found wide selections of meat and poultry raised without antibiotics at Whole Foods, Giant, Hannaford, Shaw's and Stop & Shop. However, Sam's Club, Food 4 Less, Food Lion, and Save-A-Lot stores did not carry any meat or poultry indicating the animals were raised without antibiotics, according to Consumers Union.

The shoppers also found differences in product labels which could potentially confuse or mislead consumers, according to Consumers Union.

"Consumers who want to buy meat raised without antibiotics need a system they can rely on to feel secure that the labels on those products are meaningful and accurate. Our shoppers and research found several instances of labels that could mislead consumers to believe they were buying meat from animals that were not given antibiotics, when in fact that is not necessarily the case," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director, Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports. "Consumers would benefit from one standard, meaningful, USDA-verified label that is consistent on all meat and poultry products from animals raised without antibiotics."

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