Consumer Reports magazine, in a new report, says beef from cattle that are "sustainably raised" contains fewer bacteria resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics than the meat of "conventionally raised" cattle.
The magazine tested 458 pounds of ground beef, finding that 18% tests on conventional meat show presence of multi antibiotic-resistant bacteria while 9% of sustainable meat does.
The full article, "How Safe is Your Beef," will appear in the magazine's October issue. A detailed report, including listed authors and contributors, can be found online at greenerchoices.org/beef.
The meat Consumer Reports tested was purchased from grocery, big-box, and natural food stores in 26 U.S. cities.
The samples were tested for five common types of bacteria associated with beef—Clostridium perfringens, E. coli (including O157 and six other toxin-producing strains), Enterococcus, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus.
While the testing found bacteria on all of the beef samples, beef from cows "raised more sustainably," the magazine said, was "significantly less likely" to have (S. aureus and E.coli) than those from cows raised conventionally.
Consumer Reports says the sustainably-produced beef came from cows that were raised without antibiotics and in some cases were either organic, grass-fed, or both.
In other findings, the magazine says more than 80% of the conventional beef samples contained two types of bacteria, and nearly 20% of the beef samples contained C. perfringens.
About 10% of the beef samples contained a strain of S. aureus bacteria.
While the report recommends consumers select beef carrying certain labels like "grass-fed" and "organic," the magazine notes that no matter what ground beef consumers buy, cooking it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit should kill harmful bacteria.
Meat also should be stored properly before and after cooking since bacteria can multiply rapidly at temperatures above 40 degrees. Leftover burgers or a casserole with ground beef, should be heated to 165 degrees.
While the report recommends that the FDA ban the use of "daily antibiotics in healthy animals," it does not share in its recommendations an update on Guidance 213, a directive that asks animal antibiotic drug sponsors to remove from drug labels indications for use related to growth promotion and place remaining uses under veterinary supervision.
Consumer Reports also suggests several changes for USDA, including suggestions that animal welfare standards should be added to the "organic" label, and that the "natural" label should be banned.
Read the full report at greenerchoices.org/beef.