Is My Meat and Milk Antibiotic Free?

Not many people know this about me but I used to be vegan. It’s a looooong story but aside from believing in a lot of the health claims surrounding plant based foods, I found myself being sucked into a lot of the rhetoric shared on social media and blogs regarding things like antibiotics in meat and milk.

After some time I discovered I was anemic and had a severe Vitamin B deficiency so I began eating meat again and decided to commit myself to knowing the process inside and out. After years of anthropomorphizing livestock, I needed and wanted to understand how it all worked so that I could be more informed about what exactly went into what I was fueling my body with.

In the beginning it felt like a kind of desensitization. In contrast to my first year raising sheep when I couldn’t bring myself to eat ANY lamb, my mindset shifted from being heartbroken to being very grateful. Instead of hiding the taste of meat in sauces I began to really relish its deep flavors and complexities. Instead of cooking my steak well done because I couldn’t handle any sort blood (even though it isn’t really blood anyways), I began to love the tenderness of medium rare.

Needless to say, my eyes had been opened and as my knowledge grew as both a producer and a consumer, I realized just how misleading a lot of the information surrounding meat and milk is. Which is exactly why I want to dispel a long standing myth, right here and right now: there are NEVER antibiotics in any milk or meat purchased here in the U.S.

**Caveat: I was fortunate to spend a few weeks working in data entry for a vaccine clinical trial at Washington State University on a sterilization vaccine trial for Nelore Cattle in Brazil. I feel like I can really give you some solid information here that comes from that experience!

Withdrawal Period

The reason why there are never any antibiotics present in meat and milk sold to consumers is because there’s a carefully observed withdrawal period for all antibiotics administered to livestock. That is to say, once an antibiotic is given, it will stay in the animal’s system for a given amount of time and then exit. Only when the antibiotic has exited will the animal then legally be able to be slaughtered and the meat butchered and sold to consumers. In the case of milk, a cow given antibiotics will be isolated until the end of the proper withdrawal period and then the milk is rigorously tested before it goes to shelves. All of this is highly regulated by the USDA. Different types of antibiotics have different withdrawal periods – some last a couple of weeks, some a couple of months – but they do all eventually leave the animal’s system. Being able to treat our livestock with antibiotics is an important way in which we prevent and treat disease in our herd and flock and it’s a core component of our ethically raised meat program. How was this with drawl time determined? Extensive studies have been conducted testing sample meat tissues for these residues. This science is very sound on this and you can feel confident in these studies.

Strict USDA Protocols

In addition to a highly regulated withdrawal period for antibiotics, farmers and ranchers have to sign a legal declaration at the time of butchery that any antibiotics used were properly withdrawn. The USDA also takes random samples of meat off the carcass to test for trace amounts of antibiotics to cororberate that declaration. If these come back positive the entire carcass is disposed, the farmer/rancher is fined and in some cases they’re banned entirely from USDA processing. Similarly, if milk has traces of antibiotics in it the entire tank is discarded and the dairy farmer has to cover the costs.

In the dairy industry, milk is tested twice for this: once from the tank and once at the bottling facility!

We have had our meat sampled quite a few times over the years and have never tested positive. We believe in raising our livestock with the utmost care and as humanely as possible and use antibiotics as needed (which has been very rare) while recognizing the financial impact breaking the law would have, as do most of our fellow farmers and ranchers.

So rest assured, even if you choose not to buy from us, neither your meat nor milk has any antibiotic residue in it. I can without a doubt say, trust me on this one.

  1. Judy Miller says:

    Brianna, I could hug you right now!! Great, great info. I now understand so much more.
    I hadn’t bought into the vegetarian/vegan movement, although did try a few years back. Just wasn’t for me. I’m excited to read your next blog! (No pressure 😁)

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