In The News: California Adopts Strictest Law for Antibiotic Use in Livestock


Kudos to California Governor Jerry Brown who recently approved legislation that sets the most stringent standards in the U.S. for antibiotic use in livestock.  Senate Bill 27, which Brown signed on October 10, 2015, mandates a veterinarian’s prescription to administer antibiotics in livestock, and bans the widespread use of “prophylactic” antibiotics to prevent disease—a practice that is commonplace in large commercial feedlot operations nationwide.


The Bill, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, addresses growing concerns that the overuse of therapeutic antibiotics strongly correlates with the steep rise in drug-resistant strains of bacteria (aka “superbugs) responsible for life-threatening infections in humans. Currently, public health experts estimate about 70% of antibiotics prescribed for humans are also used in meat & dairy production in this country.

Sponsored by State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), the new law also bans the use of growth promotants to fatten meat animals, and requires the California Department of Food and Agriculture to track information on medically important antimicrobial drug sales and usage, antimicrobial resistant bacteria, and livestock management practice data.

Governor Brown stated, “SB 27 addresses an urgent public health problem. The science is clear that the overuse of antibiotics in livestock has contributed to the spread of antibiotic resistance and the undermining of decades of life-saving advances in medicine.”


Not surprisingly, we are finally beginning to connect the dots. The routine use of antibiotics on densely populated factory farms has become a necessary evil to counteract the stressful, over-crowded conditions in which these animals live. The practice is widely accepted as standard operating procedure for big businesses that must weigh the potential profits lost when one sick animal infects countless others in its proximity.


Cow-FeedlotThe resulting cost? Researchers have found evidence of antibiotics and antibiotic-resistant bacteria present in the air, groundwater, and soil collected around these farms which may also contaminate the meat, eggs, and dairy products they produce.


Fast forward to our dinner tables. It stands to reason that these antibiotic residues will make their way down the food chain to the last in line: us. The correlation between the rise in superbug bacteria and the overuse of these drugs in animals seems obvious, yet the wheels of change grind painfully slow.

It is time to shine a bright light on the flawed, unsustainable model of factory farming in this country. In fact, calling these industrial-scale operations “farms” does a disservice to those who take their role as stewards of the land seriously,  and raise animals humanely. We should strive to do better by the environment, the animals, and ourselves. I applaud Governor Brown’s action in signing SB 27 as a first step in the right direction.




Categories: Food PoliticsTags: , , , , , , ,


  1. Yes I do and that is why all my meat has to be certified organic.California has always been a leader in healthy foods, so sponsoring a bill like this doesn’t surprise me. I do worry that some of the organic farm will be contaminated by run off water also. We need to take better care of our environment.

    • Agreed Jovina. I would consider going a step further when buying meat. Organic certification is a must, but this only speaks to the type of feed given to animals and not their living conditions. The general public equates “organic” with mental images of animals roaming freely in pastures, which is a misnomer in many cases. These same factory farm operations can sell meat, eggs, & dairy labeled “organic” by simply feeding the animals certified organic feed. Ideally, I look for grass-fed & finished meats, as well as words like “free range”& “pastured”. The semantics of food labeling are complex and confusing to many consumers!

  2. Thank you, Karen, for spotlighting this important victory for our dinner tables and the fine CA farmers who have led the way by already adopting better practices for their animals.

  3. WOW! That’s interesting! Good for the governor. I imagine the ranchers must hate more legislation. But this is good for their consumers!

    • Yes, I’m sure the industrial farming operations will frown on these new regulations, but clearly leaving them to their own devices has resulted in abuse with devastating health consequences to humans & animals alike. Personally, I would like to see a complete overhaul of this business model which places profit above all else. Thanks so much for reading!

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