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Meat Without Drugs Campaign Targets New Austin Trader Joe’s

New store asked not to sell meat from animals raised with the routine use of antibiotics.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


New Trader Joe’s In Austin Is Target Of Meat Without Drugs Campaign

Consumers Union Urges Grocery Store To Sell Only Meat & Poultry Raised Without Antibiotics


AUSTIN, TX – After months of anticipation, Trader Joe’s is finally opening its first store in Austin on September 20.  While Trader Joe’s has earned a reputation for being a fun and funky grocery store that offers appealing products at reasonable prices, it’s also the focus of Consumers Union’s Meat Without Drugs campaign.

Consumers Union’s campaign is working to convince grocery stores – starting with Trader Joe’s – to stop selling meat from animals routinely fed antibiotics.  Most experts agree that the overuse of antibiotics on healthy livestock threatens public health by promoting the spread of drug resistant superbugs.

“The antibiotics we depend on to treat infectious diseases are losing their power,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union.  “We need to stop wasting these critical medications on healthy livestock in order to preserve their effectiveness for treating disease.  Trader Joe’s can take a stand for public health by no longer selling meat from animals that have been routinely fed antibiotics.”

The effort to get Trader Joe’s to stop selling meat raised on antibiotics comes at a time when other food companies have made this commitment.  Austin-based Whole Foods is the only national grocer that sells only meat and poultry raised without antibiotics.

A number of restaurants and other food businesses in Austin sell only meat raised without antibiotics, including Dai Due Butcher Shop/Supper Club, Snack Bar, TMT Local Foods, Wheatsville Co-Op, Wholly Burger, and Whip In.  Austin is also home to national chains like Chipotle, Panera, and Elevation Burger that are committed to meat raised without antibiotics.

Consumers Union is opposed to the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock and has supported legislation to prohibit antibiotic use except when animals are sick.  The consumer group has urged Congress and the FDA to take action to curtail the overuse of antibiotics in meat production, but these efforts have been blocked by the pharmaceutical and livestock industries for decades.

Some 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are used not on humans but on animals – mostly livestock that aren’t even sick.  These antibiotics are fed to healthy animals like cows, pigs, and chickens to make them grow faster and to prevent disease in often crowded and unsanitary conditions on today’s factory farms.  While public health campaigns have helped to curb the use of antibiotics in humans, antibiotic use in livestock is still increasing.

When antibiotics are used on the farm, the bugs that are vulnerable to them tend to be killed off, leaving behind bacteria resistant to antibiotics.  Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread from the farm to our communities via meat and poultry, farmworkers, and through the air, soil, and water.  As antibiotic resistance increases, the medications used to treat infections in people become less effective.

“There is a growing body of research that links antibiotic-resistant infections in humans to higher incidences of antibiotic resistant bacteria in milk, poultry, turkey, beef, and pork products,” said Dianne Papillon, Board Member of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility.  “Resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat with commonly used antibiotics and can cause life threatening illnesses and even death.”

Consumers Union is targeting Trader Joe’s because eighty percent of its products are private label, which means it has more control over its suppliers and can use that leverage to increase supply and keep prices competitive.  A Consumer Reports investigation found that Trader Joe’s already sells some beef and much of its chicken raised without antibiotics (although no pork).  In fact, Trader Joe’s offers some of the lowest priced chicken produced without antibiotics available.

In recent years, the grocer has made a commitment to other sustainable purchasing practices, such as only carrying eggs from cage-free hens and sourcing its private label products with non-genetically modified ingredients.

“Big factory farms rely on antibiotics to make animals grow faster and to compensate for the crowded conditions that can make them vulnerable to disease,” said Pati Jacobs of Bastrop Cattle Company.  “But there are more humane and sustainable ways to raise healthy livestock without antibiotics.  Trader Joe’s could make a big difference by sourcing its meat from ranchers who don’t rely on antibiotics to keep animals healthy.”

Contact:  Michael McCauley, mmccauley@consumer.org415-902-9537 (cell) or 415-431-6747, ext 126 (office)