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Top 5 things Subway customers need to know about the company’s antibiotic-free-meat pledge

To Subway customers:

It’s been a crazy day. Subway (yes, the sandwich company) placed the following statement on their Facebook page:

We’re always working to make our products even better. That’s why we’re transitioning to serve only meats that have never received antibiotics starting in 2016.

As a farmer, I am disappointed in their decision. Here are 5 things you need to know as a customer of Subway:

1. Your meat is safe. Today and on March 1, 2016. If you go into Subway today to buy a sandwich, the meat you are eating is antibiotic-free. If you go into Subway on January 1, 2016, your sandwich meat will be antibiotic-free. The end result is the same. 

2. Farmers hands are tied if they are not allowed to give antibiotics. Allowing sick animals with no way of helping them or having more dead animals is not an option. How can anyone expect farmers to sit idly by watching their sick or dying animals? Giving antibiotics is only one tool that we use and we have a duty to provide safe and healthy food. Sick and dead animals are not safe or healthy. 

On our farm, we use a number of preventative measures to help prevents illnesses. Measures such as cleanliness, management techniques, and animal nutrition. Follow this link for more detailed information on what we do to prevent antibiotic usage. 

3. It’s about marketing. There seems to be a real trend in the food marketing world in using food fear. And it’s frustrating. And you, as the customer, are being targeted. What can you do? Do the research, become informed and reach out to other food players such as farmers. Because I am a pig farmer, I have compiled a list of pig farmers you can contact. It’s unfortunate because you really want to trust these companies. But when they push the envelope with questionable marketing tactics, you can’t help but lose some of the trust. Farmers can help answer your questions. 

4. Farmers don’t pump their animals with antibiotics. We use antibiotics only when they need to. And when they do use antibiotics, we are required to follow strict FDA withdrawals before our animals are sold. And this is a line we will never cross. We keep detailed records on which animals receive drugs, along with date, the reason for the antibiotic, dosage and withdrawal date. I would love to never have to give another antibiotic. That’s why we are continually open to new and better ways to keep our pigs healthy. This is a trend that will continue. 

4. Throw in a little GMO fear. Not only are they using the antibiotic issue for fear marketing, but they are also throwing in the GMO issue also.  This was on their Facebook page:

“(from) Subway Thanks for writing Lisa. We have been doing a lot of work to improve and enhance our menu. We have removed some ingredients (azodicarbonamide, High Fructose Corn Syrup) , added some fortifiers (like more whole grain and vitamin D in our bread) and continue to research and roll out more improvements over time. We have verified with all our suppliers that our apple slices, avocado, banana peppers, cucumbers, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, lettuce, mushrooms, pickles, red onions, shredded carrots, spinach and tomatoes, Cheddar, Monterey Cheddar Blend, Parmesan, Pepperjack, Provolone and Swiss cheeses are all non-GMO products. We will continue on our journey to provide our customers with many choices that fit their lifestyles.”

Sound good?

Here is the issue: None of these fruits/vegetables have a GMO version. So why play on the term GMO? Science research has shown GMOs are safe. By referring to all those ingredients as non-GMO, it insinuates that GMOs are not safe. And that’s wrong. 

5. Farmers care. Farmers are no different from Subway customers in that they want safe food. We don’t want to eat meat that is contaminated with antibiotics either. That’s why we are so very careful in using antibiotics sparingly. Most of us who raise agricultural animals eat the same meat we sell. We would never want to put our families in any type of danger. We also realize that raising food for other families is a big responsibility and we don’t take it lightly. Please allow us to use the tools we need to do it right by providing safe and healthy food for you. 

Are you looking for more information about Subway’s decision? Check out these additional blogs:

This post was written by Wanda Patsche and originally published on Minnesota Farm Living. Follow Wanda on Twitter: @MinnFarmer.

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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Russ Hilbert on 10/22/2015 - 01:14 pm.


    The fear over antibiotics, hormones, GMO’s and HFCS is ridiculous and made worse by activists and other people with no knowledge of these things. These people capitalize on the publics distrust of agriculture and government and use it as a way to make money for themselves. That is dishonest and just plain wrong.

  2. Submitted by John Harrington on 10/22/2015 - 01:26 pm.

    It’s not just about the meat

    Union of Concerned Scientists: “Overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture has led to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that make treating illness more difficult”

    Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics: “Overview of the Relationship Between Antimicrobial Use in Food Animal Production and Antibiotic Resistance” “It is estimated that over one-half of the antibiotics in the U.S. are used in food animal production.”

  3. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 10/22/2015 - 01:53 pm.

    I don’t trust a spokesperson for big ag…

    …anymore than I trust some no-name activist blog saying the opposite.

    But I do trust my wife who worked in infections disease control and kept coming across documentation where overuse of antibiotics – on humans and food animals – was leading to a worldwide crisis of antibiotic resistance (the effects of which were sometimes seen as cases of multi-drug resistant strains of previously-easy-to-treat infectious disease here in our metro counties).

    And I do trust the World Health Organization, which recently found glyphosate (the primarily reason for the surge in GMOs over the past two decades) to be a “probable human carcinogen.”

  4. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/22/2015 - 02:55 pm.

    Ms. Patsche, a question:

    You state: “Farmers don’t pump their animals with antibiotics. We use antibiotics only when they need to [sic].”

    Are you stating that no animal raised in the U.S. meat production industry receives subtherapeutic antibiotics?

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 10/23/2015 - 07:50 am.

      To continue this point . . .

      A Google search on “subtherapeutic antibiotics for livestock growth” yields almost 75,000 hits:

      Ms. Patsche asks “How can anyone expect farmers to sit idly by watching their sick or dying animals?”. That kind of question implies that this issue is soleley about whether or not antibiotics may be used appropriately when animals are ill. It is not. The concern – as alluded to by Charles Holtman – arises from the use of antibiotics at subtherapeutic levels as growth promoters – a practice lavishly attested to by the 74,800 Google hits on the subject.

      I agree Subway’s statement was overly broad. Rather than saying they will sell only meats that “have never received antibiotics”, it would have been more reasonable had they said something more along the lines of selling only meats that “have never received antibiotics unless medically necessary”. Alas, that is not how their statement reads.

      Nevertheless, the discussion of the use of subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics to promote livestock growth is an important one, and one that I don’t recall that Ms. Patsche has ever directly addressed.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 10/26/2015 - 12:51 pm.

        Crickets . . . .

        I guess Ms. Patsche is unwilling to acknowledge, deny, or defend the practice of using subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics in livestock to promote growth.

        Ms. Patsche? Ms. Patsche?

        • Submitted by Russ Hilbert on 10/27/2015 - 11:43 am.


          I think she is not speaking about it because the number of google hits about it has nothing to do with the amount of use of sub therapeutic antibiotics. The link below addresses antibiotic resistance adequately.

          • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/03/2015 - 01:34 pm.

            No, the question was not about the effects

            of subtherapeutic antibiotics. The question was about Ms. Patsche’s credibility. She appeared to state that there is no use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in the meat production industry. If I am going to give weight to what she says, I need to trust that she is not playing loose in her factual assertions as to matters about which I don’t have independent knowledge. My question was polite and straightforward. Her failure to respond certainly places her credibility in doubt with respect to any future arguments she may offer on this site.

            • Submitted by Russ Hilbert on 11/12/2015 - 10:59 am.

              original question

              Your original question was polite enough although I don’t get the impression you know a good deal about the regulations in the meat industry. With the required hold for animals that have been given antibiotics prior to slaughter there is no residue left in the meat making this discussion a mute point.

              • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/13/2015 - 06:48 pm.

                (1) Indeed, I know very little about the meat industry.

                That’s precisely my point. Because of that, I need to trust the writer when she recites the facts underlying her subsequent analysis/argument. If Ms. Patsche is citing facts that are untrue, then I must be skeptical of anything she says that I am unable to verify myself.

                (2) My chief concern is not human consumption of meat with antibiotic residue. It’s the promotion of antibiotic resistance within soils and water as a result of antibiotic residues in manure.

  5. Submitted by Russ Hilbert on 10/23/2015 - 02:58 pm.

    antibiotic resistance

    FDA says antibiotic resistance cases are falling.

    Activist organizations will state the opposite to capitalize on the publics fear and mistrust for the sole purpose of income for themselves.

    For the record, the World Health Organization has said many things, not just glyphosate, are possible carcinogens. This in no way means that these are causing cancer as many would like to believe. Many common things such as coffee, sunscreen, and even cell phones are included on this list as well. We seem to have many people who are quick to blame these things for cancer because they have been included on this list without knowing why or how or to put it differently there are far too many people concerned about chemicals without knowing anything about chemistry.

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