Superbugs in Stock

Which grocery chains are acting to eliminate routine antibiotic use in their meat supply?

The majority of the grocery chains reviewed are failing to stop antibiotic overuse in their private label meat supply chains, a practice that spurs the development of dangerous drug-resistant superbugs.

Sergey Ryzhov via Adobe Stock | Adobe Stock
Superbugs in Stock report
Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Superbugs in Stock, a report co-authored by U.S. PIRG Education Fund and several members of the Antibiotics Off the Menu coalition, grades the top grocery stores in the United States on whether they’re acting to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics in their private label meat supplies. 

Antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health. Without effective antibiotics, common infections could once again be deadly, and medical advancements like cancer chemotherapy, surgical procedures and more would be in jeopardy. One estimate finds that as many as 160,000 Americans already die annually from infections that current antibiotics cannot treat. 

Despite how critical they are to our health and the quality of our lives, nearly two thirds of the medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. go to produce meat. And oftentimes, meat producers are using the drugs routinely to compensate for stressful, unsanitary, and overcrowded conditions, not to treat sick animals. That overuse breeds antibiotic resistant bacteria that can travel off the farm and potentially infect people with dangerous illness.

Cheri Johnson | TPIN

In Superbugs in Stock we graded companies, using surveys and readily available public information, on how aggressively they’re working to eliminate routine antibiotic use in their private label meat products. Grocery companies are a primary source of meat products consumed in American households and a main source for consumers for information about these products. However, of the top 12 grocery chains in the U.S. that are featured in the report, the majority are failing to meaningfully address the issue of antibiotic overuse by their meat suppliers (see Antibiotic Use Policies and Practices graphic above). 

To protect public health and shift to a more responsible food system, grocery companies must set and enforce clear policies requiring that meat suppliers for their privately labeled products only use medically important antibiotics to treat sick animals, not to compensate for industrial farming conditions.


Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, U.S. PIRG Education Fund