Missouri beef industry could be impacted by antibiotics phaseout

McDonalds Sign

Health advocates want McDonald’s to phase out the use of beef and pork grown with medically important antibiotics, and that’s something that could impact Missouri’s beef industry. 

The Show Me State ranks sixth in the country for the number of cattle, and if the fast food chain agrees to the request, Shelby Luce, national campaign director of the antibiotics campaign for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG), says it likely would change farming practices here.

“With Missouri’s large beef industry, it’s pretty easy to connect the fact that practices that are taking place in Missouri are probably affecting the food that you’re getting at your local McDonald’s,” she states.  While Luce says farmers would have to change their practices, she says it’s important to prevent the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and improve the health of Missourians who live near cattle and pig farms. 

According to a study by Rand Europe and KPMG, by 2050 superbugs may kill more people worldwide than cancer kills today.  McDonald’s began requiring poultry suppliers to phase out antibiotic use this year. According to USPIRG, poultry related antibiotic sales only amount to 6 percent.

Luce says a shift in the beef and pork industry could improve the health of everyone.  “People in Missouri that are living next to these farms are being exposed to really potentially dangerous superbugs, or antibiotic-resistant infections,” she points out. “What we really need to think about when we’re switching our practices over is the long-term gain and the long-term costs that would come about if we lived in a world with no antibiotics.”

McDonald’s sells 1 billion pounds of beef in the U.S. annually, and Luce says a shift in the company could be the tipping point for an industry-wide change.  Some companies including Chipotle, Subway and Panera Bread have already moved away from all meat raised with routine antibiotic use, or are in the process of doing so.

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