to a memorandum signed by President Obama on Tuesday, it is now the policy of the federal government to encourage responsible use of antibiotics in the production of meat and poultry. The memorandum supports the supply chain for these products by directing federal departments and agencies to create a preference for acquiring them. Within four months, the General Services Administration will start to make meat and poultry from animals raised according to responsible antibiotic-use policies available in the federal cafeterias it manages. Going forward, as meat and poultry produced with responsible antibiotic use becomes more readily available, each agency will develop and implement a strategy that creates a preference for awarding contracts to vendors that offer responsible antibiotic-use options. This policy is to be in place in all federal cafeterias serving civilian federal employees by 2018 for poultry and 2020 for other meats. Also by 2020, rulemaking will be used to implement a preference for responsibly produced meat and poultry sold or served in all federal facilities as long as the acquisition is made at fair prices. The changes have already been made at the White House. Beginning last week, the Presidential Food Service has committed to serving only meats and poultry that have not been treated with hormones or antibiotics. The memorandum was announced Tuesday morning at the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship, which brought together more than 150 human and animal health stakeholders involved in development, promotion, and implementation of activities to ensure the responsible use of antibiotics. “This policy builds on the important work in the Food and Drug Administration, antibiotic manufacturers, veterinarians, food suppliers and retailers, and farmers who are already taking substantial steps to phase out the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion,” said John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, during the opening session of the forum. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who last summer urged the president to commit all federal purchases of meat to be from animals raised without antibiotics or only used when the animal was sick or injured, called the memorandum “a significant step in the right direction.” Slaughter added that she will be monitoring its implementation to ensure it becomes a reality, and she also called for “responsible use” to be more strictly defined so antibiotics are not used for disease prevention. Mae Wu, health attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), has the same thought. “The federal policy should halt all routine use of medically important antibiotics, not just one category of routine use,” she said.

  • Jon Boyes

    Thank you Mr. President for looking out for us all !

    • Mark Caponigro

      This looks highly ironic. Who exactly are “us all”? Plainly not the animals enslaved in the CAFO regime.

  • MaryFinelli

    Since poultry is being distinguished from “meat” -although it is all animal flesh- what about antibiotics administered to aquatic animals (aquaculture)? Does the federal policy “to encourage responsible use of antibiotics” apply to aquaculture? If not, why not?

    “Antibiotic use is an integral part of intensive animal agriculture and aquaculture”:

  • Mark Caponigro

    The legal terminology in this is maddening, and it would have been helpful for the writer to guide us through it. In standard English, “meat” of course includes meat from chickens, turkeys and ducks, aka “poultry.” And it also includes fish. But plainly not in the context of federal laws. “Responsible use” is another unclear term.

    For many promoters of animal-protection ethics, the point of outlawing the routine addition of antibiotics to the diet of farm animals is to render it impractical for farmers to keep the animals in CAFO situations, in which the close concentration makes them all highly susceptible to one another’s infectious diseases. If the outlawing of antibiotics ends up having no effect on the CAFO regime, i.e. if as many animals are kept in CAFOs now as were before, then from our point of view nothing has been gained.