Organic Means No Antibiotics

Avoiding antibiotic use protects human health.

The medical community agrees that widespread use of antibiotics leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs,” which pose increasing threats to humans. Researchers from Johns Hopkins investigated possible antibiotic resistance in airborne bacteria in a swine concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in the mid-Atlantic U.S. They concluded that exposure to airborne bacteria from a CAFO is a potential pathway for transferring antibiotic-resistant bacteria from animals to humans.1

Routine antibiotic use in animals is an unacceptable risk.

The FDA has declared that antibiotic resistance in humans resulting from the use of antibiotics in animals “is an unacceptable risk to the public health.”2

The Union of Concerned Scientists found that “25 million pounds of valuable antibiotics -- roughly 70 percent of total US antibiotic production -- are fed to chickens, pigs, and cows for nontherapeutic purposes like growth promotion.”3

Antibiotics are prohibited in organic production.

Organic Valley farmer-members maintain and promote animal health and growth WITHOUT the use of antibiotics. To this end – and in accordance with USDA Organic regulations – our farmers focus on providing healthy living conditions, proper nutrition, and attentive care as the primary factors in preventing illness. 

We focus on health and prevention in animal care.

Organic agriculture focuses on health maintenance and disease prevention by emphasizing proper nutrition and sanitation, and reducing animal stress. Close management, and preventative and holistic animal health maintenance are key.

  • Holistic and preventative care practices include choosing genetically diverse breeding stock (which are naturally less susceptible to disease), quarantining incoming stock, and maintaining an appropriate environment for each particular animal species.
  • Animals must not be overcrowded, and must be allowed access to the outdoors and direct sunlight.
  • Cows and other ruminants must have access to pasture. Well-managed pasture supports good nutrition and animal health.
  • Farmers who have transitioned to organic farming find their need for veterinary services drop significantly under organic methods.
  • Organic veterinary tools include tinctures, homeopathy, essential oils, aloe products, whey products, botanicals, vitamins, trace macro elements, and probiotics.
  • Veterinarians specializing in holistic methods of animal health maintenance offer a wealth of detailed information.
  • If holistic treatments are not effective, as a last resort farmers are encouraged to administer antibiotics rather than allowing an animal to suffer. If antibiotics are used, however, the animal cannot return to organic production - ever.* Fortunately, thanks to the naturally-maintained good health of our animals and the many holistic treatment options, this situation is rare. 

Animal care practices and treatments are documented in the organic farm plan.

As a requirement of the USDA National Organic Program, all organic farmers must write a farm plan which describes how the farm will be managed organically, including animal treatments and practices. This must be approved by the farmer’s third-party certifying agency.

*Our Cooperative maintains the ability to review a members’ certification, and if it is determined that antibiotics were improperly used or an animal was allowed to suffer, that farmer's  membership may be terminated.


1. Chapin, Amy, et. al. Abstract from "Airborne Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria Isolated from a Concentrated Swine Feeding Operation." Environmental Health Perspectives. 2005 Feb; 113(2): 137-42.

2. U.S. Government Accounting Office, "Antibiotic Resistance: Federal Agencies Need to Better Focus Efforts to Address Risk to Humans from Antibiotic Use in Animals," April 2004.

3. "Philpott, Tom. "The Meat Industry Now Consumes Four-Fifths of All Antibiotics." Mother Jones. 8 Feb 2013 Accessed 8 July 2013.

Agriculture, antibiotics, and your health
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