On Thursday, March 3, the National Pork Board reached out to food chain decision-makers, allied industry and CBS This Morning. The board addressed several inaccuracies presented during the morning broadcast segment by CBS This Morning contributor Dana Jacobson on changes announced by some fast-food chains to increase sales of meat raised without antibiotics.

The National Pork Board supports consumers’ desires for greater food transparency. It is critical that information shared with consumers by the media is accurate and not sensational in its approach.

America’s pig farmers have been preparing for substantive changes coming from the Food and Drug Administration regarding antibiotic use that take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

To view the message shared with the food chain industry, see below.

Food Chain Update:

Earlier today, CBS This Morning reported fast-food chains vow changes to meat amid “potential catastrophe,” citing consumer pressure and concern over antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” as the primary reason for “raised without utilizing antibiotics” offerings at the food counter. As your partner in pork, we need to address this report as you may receive questions from your consumers.

Safe food comes from healthy animals. Decisions to use antibiotics are unique to each farm, regardless of farm size, and require the oversight of both farmers and veterinarians working together. Antibiotics are used when needed to address disease challenges, to keep animals healthy and to produce safe food. It is not possible to raise all pigs without antibiotics.  Some pigs will get sick and need treatment.  To not treat them would be inhumane, resulting in reduced animal welfare and increased concerns about food safety.

Antibiotics and Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Meat.  The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) tests meat for antibiotic residues to ensure a safe product in the meat case and in restaurants for all consumers. Additionally, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is tracked by the federal government. Through a collaborative effort among CDC, FDA, and USDA, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) tracks specific resistant bacteria in humans, animals and retail meats. To date, there are no patterns from the NARMS research that show resistant bacteria are routinely transferred from animals to humans.

Cost of Antibiotic-Free Meat. It is inaccurate for Consumers Union to state that the “price of meals probably will not go up much, if at all,” as they do not have a current grasp on the state of the industry. Although some suppliers have begun to test the market demand for pork from pigs raised without antibiotics, others have chosen to not pursue this option. As the market indicates today, consumers do have to pay more for pork from pigs raised without utilizing antibiotics label claims.

As stated by Michael Apley, a veterinarian and professor in clinical sciences at Kansas State University, during the U.S. pork industry antibiotic seminar last October, “We are advancing in antibiotic stewardship, but antibiotics remain a vital part of our ability to address animal welfare and food safety issues. We can raise some animals without antibiotics, but not all.”

Antibiotic use and resistance is a shared responsibility and we are working closely with our farmers, animal health experts and human health experts to seek long-term solutions to this complex issue. Please do not hesitate to reach out to request more information or a meeting with us.

To learn about responsible antibiotic use in the pork industry, please visit our antibiotic resource center: http://www.pork.org/antibiotics

Industry Responds to Antibiotic Inaccuracies in Media