Organic retail meat harbors significantly less contamination of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventional meat

Organic certification prohibits the use of antibiotics in meat production, and science shows that reducing the use of antibiotics in production results in a lower occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on processed meat. Agreeing with past science, a new, extensive study published in Environmental Health Perspectives shows that organic meat has significantly lower incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria when compared with conventional meat. Between the years 2012–­2017, this study examined nearly 40,000 samples of chicken, beef, turkey and pork from grocery stores for “multidrug-resistant organisms”--common bacteria that have developed resistance to multiple types of antibiotics. The researchers found that organically produced and processed retail meat samples had a significantly lower prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventional meat. Additionally, they found that conventional meat processed in facilities that handle both organic and conventional meat (split facilities) have lower prevalence of any contamination than meat processed in conventional-only facilities. This suggests that the cleaning protocols split-facilities must use to process certified organic meat may have provided additional safety benefits for all meat. There were not enough organic-only processors (only five) to compare contamination with split facilities, and this paucity of organic meat processing facilities highlights a continuous shortcoming in the organic supply chain. This study is not the first to show that organic production reduces the presence of antibiotic resistance, but it is the largest and most comprehensive to date.


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Photo Credit:  Prastika Herlianti;