Policy reforms for antibiotic use claims in livestock
Public concern regarding antibiotic use in food-animal production has driven a rapidly growing market for meat products from animals that have been raised without antibiotics (RWA). RWA is a credence attribute that cannot be easily verified by consumers. Instead, they must rely on producers, retailers, third-party certifiers, or government regulators to ensure that these claims are valid. Meat labels in the United States, one of the leading beef-producing and -exporting nations, must be approved by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Although USDA-approved labels give RWA claims credibility and value in the marketplace, the agency does not require empirical antibiotic testing to validate them. Absent verification, there are incentives for parties throughout the supply chain to cheat or limit scrutiny. We present empirical evidence that some beef cattle processed for the RWA market have been administered antibiotics and propose policies to reform the system.
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