Distribution of Antibiotics in Agriculture is Alarmingly on the Rise

Across the United States, over 20,000 people die each year — and millions more are sickened — due to antibiotic resistance. Research indicates that this resistance has been heightened by the widespread prophylactic use of antibiotics in farm animals. The bacteria that have grown antibiotic resistant are informally known as “superbugs.” These organisms have become a widespread public health concern.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mainly relied on broad guidelines or voluntary industry participation to reduce the prophylactic use of antibiotics on farms. More recently, the FDA implemented stricter guidelines for the amount of antibiotics sold to farms for food production.

Even with the new rules, according to the FDA’s 2015 Summary Report, between 2009 and 2015, sales and distribution of antimicrobial drugs approved for use in animal food production increased 24 percent.

As NPR recently reported, agricultural antibiotic use actually increased 3 percent last year. Although consumers are increasingly clamoring for healthful, organically-produced food, FDA figures indicate that over 21 million pounds of antibiotics were sold to the farm industry during 2014.

Through public awareness campaigns and legislative solutions, Fair Farms will work to end the problems created by the prophylactic use of antibiotics in farm animals.

Maryland farmers are beginning to be a part of the solution. We have farmers who aren’t using antibiotics as part of their daily feed regimen. You can help by looking at labels and purchasing foods where antibiotics are used responsibly.

Even that can be confusing, below are labeling conventions in use by food purveyors. In a response to Consumers Union, U.S. Department of Agriculture developed some guidance on labels:


It helps for consumers like you to take the Fair Farms pledge. At the market, shop for meats raised without antibiotics (“Organic” or “No Antibiotics Administered.”). Consumer choices can go a long way in driving market forces by showing producers what consumers want to see on their tables. You can help. Be a Fair Farms consumer today!