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Buzzword Patrol

Labels - Antibiotic-Free

While visiting Publix and browsing the meat section (looking for inspiration for tonights dinner) I realized I had no definitive knowledge on what “Antibiotic-Free” labels were real and backed and what were not.

Did you know that 80% of all antibiotics sold are used by the meat and poultry industry to make animals grow faster or to prevent disease? Eating meats that have antibiotics added could overtime make you immune to certain antibiotics.



Meat/poultry labeled “USDA Organic” comes from animals that never have been given any antibiotics.

No Antibiotics Administered, No Antibiotics Added, Never Given Antibiotics

Although this label is helpful also look for ”USDA Process Verified” shield to accompany it. This indicates the company paid to have the agency verify the claim. Backing by a private certifier is also equally reliable (Global Animal Partnership for Whole Foods’). With this label it imply that the animals must not have received any antibiotics during the course of its lifetime.



According to the USDA, it means that the final product is minimally processed, contains no artificial ingredients or added color. The product could still have antibiotics added.


Use of the term “antibiotic free” is considered “unapprovable” by USDA on any meat products. Thy specifically says that “antibiotic-free” has no clear meaning in the marketplace and should not appear on packaging.

No Antibiotic Residues

This is not a USDA-approved claim. Antibiotics can be heavily used in the growing process for pigs and chickens, but must be withdrawn for a period of days or weeks prior to slaughter, so that residue levels fall below Food and Drug Administration tolerance thresholds. Technically, meat carrying this labeling could be free of antibiotic residue, despite use of drugs earlier in the animal’s life.

No Antibiotic Growth Promotants

This labeling is not approved by the USDA. Even though an animal may not have been given antibiotics for growth promotion, it still could have received them on a daily basis to prevent disease, which is the main use for the drugs in crowded growing facilities.


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