Antimicrobial use in the feedlot industry

Antibiotics (antimicrobials) are used in large feedlots to prevent disease and the resulting infections from many cattle sharing close quarters, and when new cattle are introduced to the existing group.  Unnatural weight gain in cattle is done by two methods.  The first method is through Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs), which are drugs used solely to fatten up the cattle.  The European Union and China have banned American beef imports that use HGPs. In order to sidestep this ban, the American mass beef industry introduces an unhealthy, excessive and exclusive grain based diet in the stockyard which causes liver abscesses in cattle. The beef industry then gives antibiotics to cure the liver ailment in the cattle, albeit one they intentionally caused. They can then “legally” give antibiotics to the herd, which also just so happens to induce drastic weight gain despite reduced feeding. The end state, regardless of the method, is high levels of antimicrobials in 80% of beef produced in the US and consumed by humans. None of these phenomena are present at the small family farms in the Farmers to Families community.

The scientific community commonly accepts that the spike in antimicrobial-resistant organisms is a result of the widespread antimicrobial use in the livestock industry. The reservoir of drug-resistant organisms created are rendering the medications needed for human use inept. These medications were originally created for human use. However, 74% of the clinically-relevant antimicrobials used in the United States are not consumed by humans, rather they are administered in the feed of food-producing animals. Globally, the U.S. is the second largest consumer of antimicrobials in livestock. Moreover, the global consumption of antimicrobials in food animal production is projected to increase by 67% between 2010 and 2030. The World Health Organization has recommended the cessation of antibiotic use in the livestock industry. Fifteen countries in the European Union have banned the use of all antibiotics in livestock, including an outright ban on imported beef using HGPs from the United States.

The emergence of antimicrobial-resistant organisms affects humans through increased recovery time, increased medical expenses, and increased risk of death from infections. Drug-resistant microbes take away treatment options for humans. The remaining treatment options are second-or third-choice therapies which are not as effective against the infections and/or have more serious side effects. In some cases, drug-resistance has left humans with untreatable illnesses.


The rise of emerging antimicrobial-resistant strains and a decrease in product development in the pharmaceutical industry and has resulted in the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s initiative for the development of 10 new antibiotic drugs by 2020.  The society warns that current trends could signal the end of modern medical interventions such as surgery, cancer treatment, and transplantation as antibiotic options become fewer.  Since this initiative was created 7 years ago, only 2 new drugs have been approved.

This is not dramatization. This is science and fact. We find this troubling so we decided to take action and only source our family’s meat through organizations like Farmers to Families.

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