Browse releases

By date

September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006

Media Resources

Print

Release Date: 06/20/2012

Consumer Reports Poll: Majority of Americans Want Meat Raised Without Antibiotics Sold At Local Supermarkets

Consumers Union Launches Marketplace Campaign; Asks Trader Joe’s to sell Only Such Meat

Consumer Reports Finds Misleading, Unapproved Labels that Can Confuse Consumers; Calls on USDA to Tighten Labeling Standards for Meat Raised Without Antibiotics

YONKERS, NY – A majority of Americans want meat raised without antibiotics to be sold in their local supermarket, according to a new national poll conducted by Consumer Reports. The poll is part of a report released today, “Meat On Drugs: The Overuse of Antibiotics in Food Animals and What Supermarkets and Consumers Can Do to Stop It,” available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumers Union, the public policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, has simultaneously launched a new marketplace campaign, urging supermarkets to sell only meat raised without antibiotics─starting with Trader Joe’s, one of the leading national chains best poised to make this commitment. It also sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) asking it to tighten labeling standards for meat raised without antibiotics.

Consumer Reports sent “secret shoppers” out to stores in the 13 largest supermarket chains around the country to see whether and to what degree those stores offer meat and poultry raised without antibiotics. We also conducted additional label research. The shoppers found wide differences among the stores─from Whole Foods, where all meat and poultry sold is raised without antibiotics, to Sam’s Club, Food 4 Less, Food Lion, and Save-A-Lot, where they could not locate such products at the stores visited.

“We are asking supermarkets to step up to the challenge and tell their suppliers to procure only meat and poultry that has been raised without antibiotics,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union. “Antibiotics are losing their potency in people, leading to a major national health crisis, and we need to drastically reduce their use in food animals. We are calling on Trader Joe’s to be a leader and make this change now.”

Key Findings

  • Eighty-six percent of consumers polled indicated that meat raised without antibiotics should be available in their local supermarket.

  • More than 60 percent of respondents stated that they would be willing to pay at least five cents a pound more for meat raised without antibiotics. More than a third (37%) would pay a dollar or more extra per pound.

  • The majority of respondents (72%) were extremely or very concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed, including the potential to create “superbugs” that are immune or resistant to antibiotics. More than 60 percent were just as concerned with the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed allowing them to be raised in unsanitary and crowded conditions for livestock, human consumption of antibiotic residue, and environmental effects due to agricultural runoff containing antibiotics.

  • Consumer Reports’ shoppers visited 136 supermarkets in 23 states, including at least five stores belonging to each of the 13 largest (by sales) supermarket chains in the nation, and collected data on more than 1,100 different “no antibiotics” meat and poultry items. The shoppers found wide geographic availability, and big differences among chains and stores in availability of meat and poultry raised without antibiotics. Whole Foods guarantees that all meat and poultry sold in its stores is never treated with antibiotics. Shoppers also found wide selections of meat and poultry raised without antibiotics at Giant, Hannaford, Shaw’s and Stop & Shop. Shoppers at Sam’s Club, Food 4 Less, Food Lion, and Save-A-Lot stores, however, could not find any meat or poultry indicating they were raised without antibiotics.

  • Meat and poultry raised without antibiotics does not have to be expensive.  While prices of “no antibiotics administered” meat and poultry varied considerably depending on store, type of meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) and cut, in some cases our shoppers found prices that were actually lower than the national average for all of that type of meat. Chicken raised without antibiotics was available for as little as $1.29 a pound at several stores including Trader Joe’s, Publix and Jewel-Osco.

Label Findings

Consumer Reports’ shoppers found more than 20 different labels related to antibiotic use, such as “never ever given antibiotics” and “humanely raised on family farms without antibiotics.” Consumer Reports analyzed the labels, conducted additional label research and concluded that consumers can always rely on the “organic” label, which by definition means no antibiotics can ever be used. In addition, consumers can generally rely on labels that imply that no antibiotics were used especially if they are also “USDA Process Verified” (this means USDA has checked up on the producer).

However, Consumer Reports identified a few labels that consumers should not rely upon as indicators that a product has truly had no antibiotics throughout the growing process.  Labels such as “antibiotic-free,” “no antibiotic residues,” and “no antibiotic growth promotants” are not approved by USDA and should not appear in the marketplace. They could mislead consumers. Also misleading but USDA-approved is “natural” which can be confusing since it does not ensure that antibiotics were not used.

“Consumers who want to buy meat raised without antibiotics need a system they can rely on to feel secure that the labels on those products are meaningful and accurate. Our shoppers and research found several instances of labels that could mislead consumers to believe they were buying meat from animals that were not given antibiotics, when in fact that is not necessarily the case,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director, Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports. “Consumers would benefit from one standard, meaningful, USDA-verified label that is consistent on all meat and poultry products from animals raised without antibiotics.”

In letter dated June 18, 2012, Consumer Reports called on the USDA to establish such a standard label and publish the names of the companies who are approved to use it, and for what products.  It is asking that USDA also take action against labels that fall short of its definition.

About the Campaign

The campaign, “Meat Without Drugs,” includes a companion website, www.MeatWithoutDrugs.org, and features a new video in partnership with www.FixFood.org, a social media project of Food, Inc. Director Robert Kenner, narrated by actor Bill Paxton, explaining the declining effectiveness of antibiotics. Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used not on people, but on factory farm animals, to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in crowded and unsanitary conditions. This is creating “superbugs” on farms to which humans are being exposed and causing life-saving drugs to become less effective.

Consumers Union believes that to preserve antibiotics for treatment of disease in people, use on animals must be drastically reduced or eliminated, and it has long urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Congress to ban the use of antibiotics in animal feed.

“Consumers, and the supermarkets they shop at, together can help solve the problem of antibiotic resistance that has eluded government regulators for more than four decades,” said Ms. Halloran. “We are urging consumers to say no to meat on drugs to help stop the superbugs.”

Trader Joe’s is a national retailer known for its commitment to sustainable purchasing practices, and, according to the report, one of the leading national supermarket chains offering much of its meat  and poultry raised without antibiotics.

“Consumers Union is asking Trader Joe’s to take an important step toward safeguarding consumer and public health by ensuring that all the meat and poultry sold in its stores comes from animals that are raised without using antibiotics,” said Ms. Halloran. “Trader Joe’s has a history of taking important positions against selling products that may harm public health and the environment. One of the most important public health issues the nation faces today is the declining effectiveness of antibiotics in treating human disease. We hope they will help start a sea change in the marketplace.”

Consumers Union is asking consumers to take action at www.MeatWithoutDrugs.org. The complete report is available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports Survey Methodology

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a nationally representative telephone survey about antibiotics in meat products in March 2012.  The poll of 1000 U.S. residents (18 and older) was fielded by vendor ORC International.  Respondents were asked about availability of and opinions about meat products.  The margin of error is + / - 3.1 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

See press release archive

RSS News Feed

Get all the latest information from the CR Press Room delivered right to your desktop.