The meat industry uses a considerable amount of antibiotics to fight bacteria on its livestock farms — so much so that it actually far outpaces the amount of antibiotics used to treat sick people in the country. According to FDA data compiled by Pew Charitable Trusts, the livestock industry is consuming almost four-fifths of the total amount of antibiotics used in the U.S.:
And, as Mother Jones points out, that points to a dangerous trend in the meat industry. As livestock in close quarters breed bacteria, and the industry uses more and more antibiotics to contain those pathogens, common bacteria are developing a resistance to drugs. For example, more than 75 percent of the salmonella found on ground turkey in 2011 was resistant to at least one antibiotic used to treat it — and over half were resistant to three or more different antibiotics. Unless the meat industry changes its practices, the FDA will have a difficult time continuing to ensure that meat products are safe to consume.
And even though Americans are consuming considerably fewer antibiotics than the meat industry, antibiotic resistance isn’t just an issue among lifestock farms. Diseases that affect humans — such as whooping cough, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea — are also growing increasingly resistant to the drugs used to treat them. Since testing and marketing new antibiotics isn’t as profitable for the pharmaceutical industry as selling the drugs that are already on the market, production has lagged behind over the past few decades, and global health officials warn that an impending “antibiotic apocalypse” could make even the most common infections incurable.