October 26, 2015

Subway’s decision to give in to food-fear marketing

Last week, Subway restaurants announced that they would be sourcing meat that has never been given an antibiotic starting in 2016. The announcement brought with it a fiery social media battle of farmers and ranchers trying to post their opinions and comments on the Subway Facebook page, with Subway deleting comments and upsetting people even more.

The decision was frustrating for those of us who raise livestock for meat and know what we really do to raise healthy food. Fear marketing is more and more present in our retail food chains and this is evident with Subway’s decision. Did they do their research? Did they talk to farmers and ranchers? Enough people in agriculture took action and reached out to Subway about their policy that Subway came back with this revised statement:

"That said, we recognize that antibiotics are critical tools for keeping animals healthy and that they should be used responsibly to preserve their effectiveness in veterinary and human medicine. Our policy is that antibiotics can be used to treat, control and prevent disease, but not for growth promotion of farm animals. Accordingly, we are asking our suppliers to do the following:
  • Adopt, implement and comply with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (“FDA’s”) guidance for industry 209 and 213, which requires that medically important antibiotics not be used for growth promotion. Visit the FDA site to learn more. Assure that all antibiotics use is overseen, pre-approved and authorized by a licensed veterinarian before they are administered to any animal.
  • Keep accurate and complete records to track use of all antibiotics.
  • Adhere at all times to all legal requirements governing antibiotic withdrawal times. This assures that antibiotics have been eliminated from the animals’ systems at the time of slaughter.
  • Actively encourage, support and participate in research efforts focused on improving animal health while reducing antibiotics use."
Subway's response shows a definite influcence by the agriculture community and it is exciting that our voices were hear. Yet, it seems that they are being influenced by people who do not have an understanding of why antibiotics are being used in animal agriculture. If they had talked to a farmer and rancher about raising meat before all of this came out in public, here is what they would have found out:

Livestock must be healthy and well-cared for in order to produce great, quality meat. And just one of the ways that farmers and rancher keep their animals healthy is by using antibiotics.

We don't just use antibiotics to use them. On farms and ranches, they have a herd health program where the livestock get regular medical care, including checkups, that starts with vaccinations to prevent disease (much like a well-child checkup for kids). But sometimes animals get sick, just like we do and it’s necessary to treat them. So we give antibiotics if an animal is injured or to fight a bacterial infection. This is the most common and prevalent use of antibiotics in livestock.

Under the care of our veterinarian, we closely follow the label and dosing instructions which are approved by the FDA.

The FDA regulates the approval and use of antibiotics in animal medicine. Their approval process is stringent and they use the same testing for antibiotics in animals as they do for humans. Any antibiotic given to a food animal has a specified withdrawal time which is the amount of time from the last shot until it is out of their system. An example could be that we notice signs of respiratory disease in one of our cattle, we work closely with our veterinarian and under the guidelines of the FDA to give that animal an antibiotic where we follow the label and dosing instructions. The maximum length is 28 days and we will never sell that animal to go into the food system until that 28 days is up – so the FDA assures us that is no antibiotic residue in our meat as well as the USDA randomly inspects meat to make sure it is safe.

We work with our veterinarian; it is a law that we follow this withdrawal time. When the withdrawl time is up – the antibiotics have left the animal’s system. This means that the animal is ANTIBIOTIC-FREE, which equals = ALL MEAT IS ANTIBIOTIC-FREE BY LAW!

And we take that very seriously, which means doing the right thing by closely monitoring the care we give our animals. We want to continue to earn the respect and trust we have with our meat buyers and meat eaters and we want healthy animals to provide healthy, safe and nutritious beef.

Farm and ranch families depend on healthy cattle for our livelihoods. We care for our livestock by giving them a good diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions. Our commitment to providing top-notch meat begins with top-notch animal care.

Unfortunately, Subway is not the first – nor the last – to give in to fear marketing and change the food they are providing based on the consumer’s opinion. Let's continue to band together and share with others how animals are treated and raised. Also, send them to CommonGround volunteers who can help assure consumers that they don't have to have fear in their food! Visit FindOurCommonGround.com.

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