One of the most frequently asked questions that we get both in our store and in our inbox is “is your meat antibiotic free?” While it’s a quick and easy, “yes” as a reply, it’s important to note that all meat and milk that you are purchasing anywhere in the United States is antibiotic free. Let me start by saying that never once have I treated my own children with oral antibiotics and have my opinions about the over prescribing and use of them in this country. With that being said, I have also never been in a life or death situation or extreme suffering with my children where I had little choice but to give them - because I would.
The same goes for our livestock here at Hidden Creek. As a farmer, profit margins are slim to begin with and not always guaranteed. Protecting our bottom line is important, and medication and veterinary care are not cheap costs. Neither is the loss of an animal. Bottom line - we are not going to treat an animal that does not need to be treated. BUT, if it’s between administering antibiotics or the loss of a member of our herd? You can bet that we doing everything in our power to keep that animal alive.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have given animal agriculture a bad wrap when it comes to antibiotic usage throughout the industry. Because these animals are in a more crowded environment, frequently on concrete or indoors, they are more susceptible to different diseases and infections. To “get ahead of it,” more times than not, these farmers will administer antibiotics through the animals feed or water source as a preventative measure. This is seen heavily in the poultry and pork industries but others are not exempt from it.
Many consumers have an ethical issue with this kind of practice while others voice their concerns in regards to the effects that it has on our resilience and gut health as humans consuming highly treated protein. I think both are probably pretty valid areas of apprehension. If you don’t have the accessibility to know your farmer and their practices, here’s some things that you should know…
There is never any antibiotics present in meat and milk sold to consumers and that is because there is a required withdrawal period for all antibiotics administered to livestock before they are able to be processed. This is highly regulated by the USDA and any animals being slaughtered at a USDA facility require that their farmers sign off on a legal document stating that antibiotics were properly withdrawn before sending to processing - different antibiotics have different withdrawal periods. Because people are not always honest, the USDA actively takes random samples of meat off of carcasses and tests for trace amounts of antibiotics to ensure that farmers aren’t telling a lie. If & when they get caught in that lie they are fined and can even be blacklisted from USDA processing.
Milk is no exception to these checks and balances - it is actually checked twice before it even gets distributed. Once at the tank & once at the bottling facility for good measure. If the milk tests positive for ANY trace amounts of antibiotic residue the entire tank gets dumped at the expense and loss of the farmer. An expense that no farmer wants to run the risk of no matter the size of the herd.
As far as labeling goes - don’t get yourself too worked up when shopping at the grocery store. Like most of the ‘information’ that you find on food labels, the verbiage is nothing more than a marketing scheme. If you want to make sure that the livestock that you are consuming truly never received antibiotics, you can look for ‘no antibiotics ever’ or ‘raised without antibiotics’ labels while shopping the meat section at the supermarket. Otherwise, I will always encourage open and candid conversations between you and who you choose to be your farmer.
Here at Hidden Creek, we solely use USDA processing facilities for the butchering of our meats and have had carcasses randomly sampled by the inspector on more than one occasion. Rest assured, and to no surprise what so ever, they all came back negative. This is because we do not ever use antibiotics for our livestock unless it comes down to life or death of an animal.
In our four years at Hidden Creek, I can count on a single hand how many times that we have ever had to administer antibiotics (Excenel RTU EZ - Ceftiofur Hydrochloride) to an animal. Each time we have had to make that decision, it was for a sick young pig (typically around 2 months old) experiencing respiratory issues after arriving at the farm. Without digging too deeply into that song and dance, they more than likely arrived to the farm with that respiratory issue and we were left to deal with the aftermath. We haven’t been lucky in every intervention that we have administered but our success rate is higher than our loss.
Pre-slaughter withdrawal time for this specific antibiotic is 14 days following the last dose. Knowing that our 8 week old pig receiving a treatment to save its life has another 20 weeks to go before processing, we can make that decision confidently. Our animals are our livelihood and ensuring that they are properly being taken care of and treated humanely effects not just our bottom line but also our hearts. As your farmers, we care so deeply about their wellbeing and providing our customers with premium meats that they feel confident in consuming.
With all of that being said, whether you choose to buy from us or not, your meat (and milk) is antibiotic free. & if you have a question - ask a farmer! We want everyone to feel assured when making a purchasing decision and filling their plate.