Researchers investigate cattle antibiotic use and impact on beef

Researchers at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Nebraska say the normal use of antibiotics in cattle has minimal impact on the levels of antimicrobial resistance in beef.

“When we get down to meat, and we have study that’s under review right now, we see no difference in resistance between meats that have been produced conventionally—where antibiotics were used—and meats that were produced without the use of antibiotics,” says Dr. John Schmidt, a microbiologist in the meat safety and quality research unit at USMARC.

Schmidt says antimicrobial resistance is a very complex issue.

“Many people have a very simplistic view of it, that animals that receive antibiotics are going to be riddled with antibiotic resistance—and in animals that do not get antibiotics, there will be no resistance in them. And that’s not true,” he says. “Resistance is an inherent part of bacteria—and in any environment that has bacteria, there will be resistant bacteria there.

“In short, we see very similar levels of resistance in the fecal level–that’s where it’s going to be the most concentrated–and then as we progress through processing to the final product, those differences get less and less, until there’s functionally no difference, all the while reducing the number of bacteria,” Schmidt says. “So removing antibiotics has minimal impact where bacteria are most concentrated, and a very small impact by the time it sees the consumer.”

AUDIO: John Schmidt

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