Ensuring Beef Safety

Everyone plays an important role in beef safety – from the cattlemen and women who continually invest in and learn from beef safety research studies to the various government entities that are responsible for enacting and overseeing food safety regulations and inspections. And even you – the folks who select, purchase and prepare beef – play a vital role in maintaining beef safety standards when it comes to proper food handling and cooking practices

How Do Ranchers keep cattle healthy?

Farmers and ranchers work diligently to manage their cattle for optimum health. It begins with proper nutrition. Whether out on grass or in a feedyard, cattlemen work with nutritionists to make sure the cattle are receiving the right balance of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy. Cattlemen also work with their veterinarian to determine the disease risks their cattle may face and develop a “herd health plan” to minimize those risks.

How are ANTIBIOTICS used in the cattle raising process?

There has been a great deal of discussion lately about how antibiotics are used in raising livestock. The reality is that farmers and ranchers take antibiotic use in livestock very seriously and continuously evaluate their use based on the best possible science.

Let's explore the role of the antibiotics in animal care.

  • Antibiotics are used in animal medicine to prevent, treat, or control disease, which is important to animal and human safety.
  • When an animal gets sick, farmers, ranchers and veterinarians carefully evaluate if, and when, to administer antibiotics.
  • Cattle farmers believe not treating cattle that become sick is inhumane as part of their ongoing commitment to animal health and welfare. When administering antibiotics, they follow product label directions or the prescription provided by their veterinarian, meaning they adhere to usage guidelines to protect both animals and humans that have been rigorously tested and approved by the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

Animal medicine goes through three layers of approval to determine if the medicine is safe for the animal, the environment and the humans who will consume the meat. All three areas must be evaluated before approval from the FDA. Even after they’re approved, antibiotics are continuously monitored and must be re-evaluated annually. The antibiotics will only stay on the market if they continue to be proven safe.

Are there residues from ANTIBIOTICS in the meat i eat?

The FDA sets withdrawal times for all veterinary drugs, including antibiotics. Withdrawal time is the amount of time required for the drug to be fully processed by the animal’s body; the withdrawal time depends on the drug but typically ranges from zero to 60 days

The USDA randomly tests and monitors beef before it gets to you. By law, no meat sold in the U.S. can contain antibiotic residues above the Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) set by the FDA to ensure safety

Preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics is a cause for all of us. Even making sure to finish the full course of antibiotics prescribed to you or to your animals is essential to the fight against antibiotic resistance. To this end, the beef community is committed to further investing in research to better understand how to effectively and appropriately use antibiotics to best protect animal and public health. 

Fresh raw Prime Black Angus beef steaks on wooden board

The role of the USDA in monitoring safe beef

The United States has worked hard to generate one of the safest food supplies in the world. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the agency responsible for ensuring that the commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products in the U.S. is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.

The Federal Meat Inspection Act requires USDA inspectors to provide inspection of live cattle before entering a federally-regulated establishments. Inspectors also oversee where beef is cut and packaged and the finished meat products are prepared for shipment to their final destinations.

FSIS inspectors utilize numerous tools, tests, and levels of federal inspection to assure product safety. These safety procedures involve collecting and analyzing food samples for harmful bacteria, foodborne pathogens and chemical contamination. As soon as FSIS learns of a potentially unsafe or mislabeled meat product, they conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether there is a need for a recall. In the instance an unsafe product is identified, a recall is issued as an example of the U.S. food safety system working to remove the product from commerce. If a recall is necessary, FSIS notifies the public through a Recall Release distributed to media outlets where the product was distributed and is posted on the USDA-FSIS website.