3 Common Misconceptions About Antibiotic Use in Livestock

The media has conjured up all sorts of misconceptions about antibiotic and vaccination use in livestock and poultry, so I thought I would clear up a few common myths consumers hear regarding antibiotics. When I get a bad cold, sore throat, or upset stomach I always turn to my mom to try and make me feel better. Although she does her best to nurse me back to health, sometimes more needs to be done than a warm 7-Up or cough drop. After mom’s remedies, I make an appointment with my doctor, so he can prescribe me an antibiotic to make me feel better. A similar process is done with livestock and poultry. When my pigs are running a fever, have a raspy cough, or rash, I do what I can to make them comfortable and call their doctor, a veterinarian. The vet will make a trip out to my farm to diagnose my pigs and prescribe an antibiotic.

MYTH: 1. There are antibiotics in the meat sold to consumers.


False. Antibiotics given to livestock and poultry have withdrawal periods. A withdrawal period is the number of days that must pass after giving the animal the antibiotic to ensure there is no residue left in the animal before shipping them to market. To further guarantee there are no antibiotics in the carcass, the USDA takes samples from the kidney or liver (areas that would contain the most residues). If any residue is found, the meat is discarded and does not enter the food production chain. The carcass is then tracked back to the producer, so he or she can correct the problem.

MYTH: 2. Antibiotic use in livestock and poultry contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Photo Credit: FDA

False. Antibiotics used in livestock and poultry are different compared to those used in humans. Approximately 70% of antibiotics used in livestock and poultry are tetracycline and ionophores; whereas, in humans approximately 70% of antibiotics used are penicillins, cesphalosporins, and sulfas. Ionophores are not used in human antibiotics and tetracycline accounts for only 4% of human used antibiotics. Most antibiotic resistance in humans comes from the overuse of human antibiotics.

MYTH: 3. Organic livestock and poultry producers never use antibiotics.

Photo Credit: USDA

False. Organic livestock producers are able to give vaccinations as preventative measures against illness. Pain medication and dewormers are also allowed in dairy and breeding stock. However, if the preventative measures fall through and an animal becomes ill, the producer is obligated to treat the animal. After the animal has been treated with antibiotics, that animal can no longer be labeled as organic.


My name is Samantha Chalus and  I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Ag Business and anticipate graduating in May of 2016. I grew up on a small farm in Ottawa, IL where we raised show pigs, sheep, and chickens. I was an active member in 4-H for 11 years and FFA for 4 years. Throughout college I have worked full time and participated in Hoof’N’Horn and Collegiate Farm Bureau. Upon graduation, I plan to pursue a career in agriculture.


2 thoughts on “3 Common Misconceptions About Antibiotic Use in Livestock

  1. cassielindsey

    I thought this article explained pertinent issues within the meat industry. I really liked how you explained what withdrawal periods are in terms of antibiotics.


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