Will Witherspoon: Food System Hero

An NFL linebacker and sustainable farmer wants Congress to get antibiotics out of the meat industry.

By Leah Zerbe


Although there is legislation on the table that would end the routine use of antibiotics in farming, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) has yet to catch on in Congress, despite a growing public health crisis. As it stands, potentially lethal superbug germs are routinely found on supermarket meats. "Just last year, the United States had three major outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant foodborne illness, all from meat products," said Rep. Louis Slaughter, (D–N.Y.). She reintroduced PAMTA in 2011, but so far, few federally elected officials are biting.

Urge your leaders in Congress to support the legislation, and in the meantime, go out of your way to avoid antibiotics in meat to protect your health.

4 Ways to Avoid Drugged Meat
Go organic. Organic farming bans the use of antibiotics in animal farming and requires that animal feed come from crops grown without the use of genetically engineered ingredients or chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Organic does not, however, guarantee that cows enjoyed a completely grass-based diet.

Seek out the Animal Welfare Approved seal. Animals raised in this audited program only ingest antibiotics when they are facing an illness that requires the meds. These animals also enjoy a more natural diet, one fundamentally based on pasture or range. A more natural diet promotes healthy digestive health, which in turn reduces the risk of dangerous E. coli infections.

Familiarize yourself with Certified Humane. This program allows antibiotics only when an animal is sick. While the program does allow some confinement, it prohibits crates and cages.

Connect with local farmers. Visit LocalHarvest.org to find sustainable farmers in your area, and check out the operation for yourself. Ask the farmer about antibiotic use in feed and how the farm treats animals when they fall ill.