Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Efficient industrial-scale meat production requires that large numbers of animals be raised in close confinement, a situation that favors the rapid spread of disease. In order to control animal pathogens, many producers routinely add antibiotics to their feed. This practice turns out to have the additional advantage of increasing growth rate and feed efficiency.
Antibiotic residues in meat are minute and apparently insignificant. However, there’s good evidence that the use of antibiotics in livestock has encouraged the evolution of antibiotic-resistant campylobacter and salmonella bacteria, and that these bacteria have caused illness in U.S. consumers. Because resistant bacteria are more difficult to control, Europe and Japan restrict the use of antibiotics in animals.