The opening of the first Trader Joe’s store in Boise, Idaho, has become the latest front in a campaign to get the Monrovia company to stop selling meat from animals raised with antibiotics.
Consumers Union, which publishes Consumers Report magazine, took out a full page advertisement in the Idaho Statesman on Monday to warn about growing antibiotic resistance from industrial farming and urge consumers to demand Trader Joe’s sell only antibiotic-free meat.
“The antibiotics we depend on to treat infectious diseases are losing their power,” said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union. “We need to stop wasting these critical medications on healthy livestock. Trader Joe’s can take an important stand for public health by no longer selling meat from animals that have been routinely fed antibiotics.”
[Updated 11:33 a.m.]
Trader Joe’s said it offers a variety of meat, including those raised without antibiotics. It continues to sell meat where antibiotics was likely used because it remains in demand.
“We understand the importance of our customers’ decisions when it comes to their grocery shopping and do not presume to make choices for them; we work hard to offer products we think fit our customers’ needs — covering a range of considerations,” the company said in a statement.
But Consumers Union wants the retailer – famed for its affordable natural foods – to join grocers like Whole Foods and national restaurant chains such as Chipotle and Panera Bread in completely eschewing meat from antibiotics-raised animals.
“Consumers Union is targeting Trader Joe’s because 80% of its products are private label, which means it has more control over its suppliers and can use that leverage to increase supply and keep prices competitive,” Consumers Union said in a statement.
The Consumers Union campaign to urge Trader Joe’s to sell only antibiotic-free meat started in 2012. In addition to the Boise store set to open Friday, the group has taken its campaign to Colorado, which recently opened three new Trader Joe’s stores.
About 80% of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. each year are used on farms where they can promote faster growth in animals or prevent illnesses before they occur. This has troubled the medical community, which says the overuse of the medicine in agriculture has led to growing human resistance to some drugs and the arrival of more potent illnesses.
The Food and Drug Administration said in December it would begin restricting antibiotic use on farms only in cases where it was medically necessary. Antibiotics for animals that have no human equivalent, and therefore can’t spread resistance in people, are still permitted.