Changes at UW Health sparks discussion about antibiotic-free meat

Published: Apr. 26, 2019 at 5:29 AM CDT
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You've likely noticed meat labeled "no antibiotics" or "antibiotic-free" in grocery stores. Now,

of meat served at University Hospital and American Family Children's Hospital is antibiotic-free as well. The effort has been in the works for about two years and UW Health received a "Circle of Excellence in Food" award from Practice Greenhealth for its efforts.

Antibiotic-free meat comes from animals raised without antibiotics. UW Health staff said this change was made a priority in an effort to reduce antibiotic resistance in people.

"So the use of antibiotics isn't some sort of evil plan in order to create drug resistance. It's really supposed to help keep food costs low; however, I would argue that these costs are just deferred because, while our food supply might be a little bit cheaper, what we're doing is propagating resistance, which will lead to more challenging to treat infections, more expensive medications, longer hospital stays. So the cost is deferred in the long run," said Dr. Joseph McBride with the UW Health Infectious Diseases Department.

UW Health staff said, even with the change to antibiotic-free meat, all of the beef served at both University Hospital and American Family Children's Hospital is local to Wisconsin.

"It absolutely felt hypocritical, thinking that we were serving foods that, perhaps, didn't meet all the recommendations that we were educating our patients on. So really having the opportunity to change that food environment to ensure that we're modeling the behaviors that we're expecting our patients and families to follow," said Director of UW Health Culinary Services and Clinical Nutrition Megan Waltz.

NBC15 also talked with staff from the Wisconsin Beef Council about the use of antibiotics in animals. Executive Director Tammy Vaassen said antibiotics are expensive and only used when necessary to keep animals healthy. She also said farmers have to follow withdrawal times before they can take animals to market.

"Farmers want to continue to have antibiotics that are working effectively in their animals because the use of antibiotics is one way that we can treat animals that are sick and to withhold treatment would be inhumane to our animals. We very much want to be a part of the solution to antibiotic resistance. Our farmers and veterinarians are working together with the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture the Food Safety Inspection Service to ensure that our judicious use of antibiotics does not contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria in the human population. So we very much want to be a part of the solution but yet we want to be able to keep antibiotics working for our animals as well," said Vaassen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the label "antibiotic-free" on food is not approved by the USDA and has no clear meaning.

While researching on this topic, NBC15's Meghan Reistad spoke with Jeff Sindelar from the UW Meat Laboratory. Sindelar works for UW Madison as an extension meat specialist and suggested the following

to provide more information on the topic.

For additional information on this topic visit the following websites: