Antibiotics are administered to factory farmed animals for several reasons.
1. Large concentrations of animals shoved together in cramped and unnatural conditions get sick, quickly spreading disease. Preventative antibiotics keep this in check.
2. With cattle, antibiotics help steers tolerate the corn they're intensively fed to fatten up. They're ruminants, designed by nature to be eating grass, not corn, which can make them fatally ill.
Hormones are given to stimulate growth. The faster an animal grows, the sooner it can be slaughtered. The use of hormones is banned in most European countries, Australia, Japan and New Zealand due to health risks, but are still permitted for ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) in some countries like Argentina and the United States. Tip: if you live in the United States and see "no hormones administered" on chicken or pork, that's marketing; the U.S. government doesn't permit hormones use in either.
The overuse of livestock antibiotics has been linked to drug resistant strains of bacteria. When we eat animals, we're ingesting residues of the drugs they’ve been administered. Livestock hormones have been linked to early puberty and cancer.
Finding hormone and antibiotic free meat can be tricky. Almost all conventional meat found in supermarkets is raised with antibiotics, and most conventional beef and dairy contains hormones as well. The terms "no hormones administered" or "no antibiotics administered" are only defined by the government, not enforced.
Look for meats marked with your reputable organic stamps of approval like EU organic, USDA organic, or IFOAM organic as they do not permit hormones or antibiotics. Trustworthy third-party certified labels to look for beyond organic certifications include Certified Humane and AWA Approved.
Buying local pastured animals at a farmers' market or a butcher shop that specializes in well-raised meat is a good way to find drug-free meat. Always ask questions.
Applegate is a champion for sustainable agriculture offering a range of organic and natural meats that they say have never been administered hormones or antibiotics and are raised using sustainable farming methods. Sample their hot dogs, sausages, burgers, bacons, and deli meats and you won't be disappointed. Follow Applegate on Facebook and Twitter. Locate a Store where you can buy Applegate products. Real Food has a story.