We sleep a little easier at night knowing that companies like Tyson, McDonald’s, and Chipotle raise antibiotic-free chickens and pigs, even though we don’t quite know what that means. But new analysis from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal shows that antibiotic usage in livestock has actually soared worldwide.In the United States alone, 80 percent of all antibiotics go to livestock. This could spell disaster for mankind in the coming years: it may lead to an antibiotic shortage and the eventual development of “superbugs” that will be able to resist medical antibiotics used on humans, according to Mother Jones. In short, your appetite for pork could eventually cause antibiotics to turn into placebos. As a reminder, superbugs are easily transferable from animals to humans.
“Demand for animal protein for human consumption is rising globally at an unprecedented rate,” the authors of the study write. “Modern animal production practices are associated with regular use of antimicrobials, potentially increasing selection pressure on bacteria to become resistant. Despite the significant potential consequences for antimicrobial resistance, there has been no quantitative measurement of global antimicrobial consumption by livestock.”
In layman’s terms: We are constantly pumping our animals full of antibiotics to keep up with worldwide demand, especially in middle-world countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, where animal antibiotic consumption is expected to increase by 67 percent in the next 15 years. However, according to recent analysis, the drugs are no longer making animals bigger.
The good news is consumers are developing a taste for antibiotic-free meat over medically pumped chickens.