A top priority for all cattle producers is the health and well-being of our animals. The judicious use of antibiotics represents an important technology cattle ranchers use to provide comprehensive herd-health plans to prevent problems and treat issues, when they arise.

The approval and use of antibiotics to treat sick animals and to maintain animal health is a science-driven process. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves antibiotics to treat specific diseases or conditions at specific dosage rates, and producers are legally required to follow these precise label directions. This strict approval process was made more stringent in 2003 when FDA finalized an additional safety measure requiring risk assessment to be applied to all new and existing antibiotics (Guidance for Industry Part 152). NCBA supports the role that FDA plays in making science-based decisions regarding the safety and efficacy of antibiotics and antimicrobials used in animal agriculture.

Antimicrobial resistance is a very complex, multi-faceted issue that affects human and animal health. As such, NCBA carefully monitors all international, science-based and peer reviewed research on this issue to ensure our policies and guidelines are consistent with the current knowledge. Unfortunately, efforts exist to misrepresent the use of antibiotics by the U.S. cattle industry. Efforts to ban antibiotic and antimicrobial use in the absence of risk assessment and sound science could be harmful to both human and animal health.

Key Points:

  • Antibiotics and antimicrobials are an important and necessary technologies utilized by cattle producers to protect animal health and well-being
  • Safeguards/Layers of protection
    • FDA- Antibiotics used in beef cattle must go through a rigorous scientific testing process before being approved by FDA. This process insures that animals remain healthy and the food supply remains safe
    • FSIS- The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) conducts tests to ensure beef products entering the food supply do not contain antibiotic levels that violate FDA standards. This testing protocol has been updated continuously since its inception in 1967
    • NARMS- The USDA and FDA program that monitors antibiotic resistance in animal agriculture is called the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS)
  • What is the difference between antibiotics and antimicrobials?
    • Antibiotics are compounds produced by one organism to inhibit the growth of another organism
    • Antimicrobials are a class of drugs that includes both antibiotics and true antimicrobials which are synthetic products. Examples of synthetic products include fluoroquinolones and sulfa drugs
  • What is the difference between resistance and residues?
    • Resistance occurs when an antibiotic is no longer effective against a pathogen due to any genetic changes in that pathogen
    • Residues occur where a volatile level of a drug is left in the tissues of an animal that exceeds the safety tolerances set by FDA. By law, no meat sold in the United States is allowed to contain antibiotic residues that violate FDA standards.  
  • NCBA supports the judicious use of all antimicrobials and recommends proper use through Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) programs
  • NCBA supports actions based on sound, peer-reviewed science and risk assessment relative to the use of antibiotics or other drugs.
  • NCBA is strongly opposed to congressional action in determining the safety and efficacy of antibiotics. This is the role of FDA and we ask Congress to empower the agency to do its job effectively, based on sound science, in an open and transparent process



  • Antibiotics Approval Process Fact Sheet
  • Antibiotic Use in Cattle Production Fact Sheet
  • Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMPTA) Fact Sheet

Additional Information

NCBA Contact

Kristina Harris Butts
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