A new report by the watchdog group Consumer Reports urges industry and the government to cut back or eliminate the use of antibiotics in the feed of the poultry, beef and pork that people eat.
The group is concerned that these drugs are contributing to the rise in superbugs: drug resistant germs that render some antibiotics ineffective against deadly infections.
The meat industry uses antibiotics to protect animals from getting sick, but also because the drugs make animals grow faster and bigger on less feed. The Food And Drug Administration recently announced plans for a three-year voluntary initiative to phase out the non-medical use of antibiotics in farm animals.
Some companies have already begun to eliminate antibiotics to promote faster animal growth.
According to the FDA: "it's well established scientifically that all uses of antimicrobial drugs, in both humans and animals, contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance."
A coalition of agricultural organizations disagrees: "the research is clear that the contribution of using antibiotics in food-animal production to the human burden of antibiotic resistance is quite small, if it exists at all."
Meat and poultry raised without antibiotics are available in some grocery stores and should be USDA-verified as such or labeled organic.