Subway Removing Antibiotics… And Facebook Comments

subway restaurant meat antibioticsSubway announced on Tuesday, it plans to begin serving meat that has never received antibiotics – poultry in 2016, pork and beef six years after that is complete. The sandwich chain makes the move to compete with its rivals and gives in to pressure from activist groups, following recent events that have dampened their PR efforts to retain an image of Fresh food.

Related Links

As Pork Network stated, “While the [NRDC] spokesperson said Subway should be “commended for answering its customers’ calls,” the pressure did not come from customers. The pressure came from activist groups, and Subway – like many others – complied to avoid the potential for negative publicity that is easily created by these groups.”

For the record, I’ve yet to see Subway give much notice that it has been working with livestock farmers and ranchers leading up to this decision. It’s not an earth-shattering announcement, following similar announcements from several other restaurant chains in recent years. However, a few items seem different.

Subway emphasized sourcing meat that has never received antibiotics. As posted on the Subway 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.” This is dangerous.

Antibiotics are important tools to treat disease. Most activist complaints focus on the use of antibiotics in feedlots, but most fail to acknowledge their importance in treating illnesses. This includes treating cattle in pasture and range situations, where activists claim they want livestock to be raised. Removing this tool from livestock farming and ranching families, with the guidance of veterinarians, is dangerous to our ability to continue raising healthy animals.

Great. If Subway wants to give into activist pressures, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen companies listen to vocal minorities. But it’s another thing when the company makes the announcement and follows up by deleting comments from users who disagree with their announcement. I shared the comment below and it only took six minutes before it was deleted. What gives, Subway?

Screenshot 2015-10-20 at 6.55.32 PM

For the record, I’m not concerned about antibiotics being in our meat, and neither should you.

I’ve written about antibiotics use in livestock on several occasions, sharing my experience on family farms and ranches and large cattle feedlots in several locations around the country. Have I experienced occasions when antibiotics may have been used in place of better management practices at the moment? Yes, that has happened. IS the use of antibiotics in feedlots and CAFOs (affectionately referred to as ‘factory farms’ by activists) as bad as the images painted by activists, and at times popular media? Certainly not according to my experiences.

In fact, more often than not, those larger operations, along with farmers and ranchers are great stewards of their resources, using them when needed the most from a diverse tool box. When used, most of these antibiotics must be purchased through a veterinarian who has oversight of the livestock farm’s management. Those rules are already being reinforced to stricter standards next year by the FDA. I’ve discussed in detail the changes with Veterinary Feed Directives with a veterinarian.

Even when livestock are given antibiotics, that doesn’t mean there will be residues in our meat. Programs such as Beef Quality Assurance teach farmers and ranchers proper use of antibiotics and how to administer them for safe food products from those animals. A friend, who happens to be an accomplished meat scientist, has explained this well and describes that meat is safe, even from livestock who have received antibiotics to treat illnesses.

There has been much hype around the use of antibiotics and development of antibiotics resistance in recent years. Livestock systems have become the scape goat. Even CDC Director Thomas Frieden agrees that human antibiotics-use is very big piece of this puzzle.

Individual farmers and ranchers have to do a better job of being a part of the conversations with these restaurant chains and not let activists control the message. Subway can let the market dictate its menu items and food sourcing procedures, but there’s absolutely no need to remove reasonable comments from their social media channels. If the company is going to engage online, it must allow others to join the conversation.

Here are additional comments that were promptly removed from the Subway Facebook page. If you have captured a screen shot of a reasonable comment that was hidden/deleted from their page, send those to me.


Updated links:


  1. Thanks Ryan. I literally was searching for a blog in response to Subway’s announcement. A friend sent me yours. Thank you for speaking out for truth. The fight we (Ag) have is sometimes depressing – please keep it up.

  2. Just think, with out antibiotics, we can have another major bird flu crisis on our hand like we had this spring, but in other animals as well. How good was that just killin off all them animals, but thats what it sounds like these animal activists want done

  3. Thanks Ryan, my comments where promptly deleted even though they were appropriate, just not agreeing with their decision! #factsnotfear

  4. I had a similar interaction with Wendy’s when they announced their “antibiotic free” chicken sandwich on Facebook. I was one of the first comments on the post.

    “Chickens raised without antibiotics or with the use of antibiotics when necessary (no farmer wants their animals to get sick and suffer!) both options are safe and healthy choices. #askafarmer”

    Wendy’s responded to almost all the other comments except for mine. I had the most likes on my comment yet no word from Wendy’s. It’s a shame Subway is deleting comments.

  5. Ryan- It always unnerves me when the media cites NUMBERS on usage (i.e. in animals vs. humans) but does not mention percentages or the fact most antibiotics administered are not the same as those used in human medicine. Thanks for the article!

  6. the problem is not a sick or healthy animal, but the fact that bacteria become resistant to the used antibiotics. So if a human needs the antibiotics to cure a decease, it might not work anymore. I’d rather have a dying animal then a dying human. just my 2 cents

  7. Great post, Ryan. I use antibiotics each year as a preventive for Chlamydia in my meat goat herd. Last December, I experienced an abortion storm and many more preemies born. After research and testing, it was decided my herd was affected by the bacterial infection Chlamydia, which is found in the soil. The bacteria eats the placenta, causing the kids to be born early and underdeveloped. This was a huge loss for my operation, but I had about 20 does left to kid, so I made the decision to start using LA200 and Aeromycin as prescribed by veterinarians and other producers. A very low dose of 2 cc of LA and just a tea spoon of Aeromycin. Guess what? I haven’t lost a kid since. They’ve been born on time and fully developed and healthy. I will continue to use the antibiotics to my pregnant does. The correct use of antibiotics provides profit to the farmer and more product for the consumer. With the restrictions coming to the forefront, I’m looking forward to having a closer relationship with my veterinarian as he WILL continue to prescribe to me antibiotics for my pregnant does. I wonder how the public and Subway feels about my use of antibiotics to prevent preemies and abortions?

  8. Ryan, I actually think you might be the one who is misinformed here. These activist groups are not pushing for a complete removal of all antibiotics in all situations, but rather the ROUTINE use of antibiotics without a prescription from a veterinarian. Many large operations, even though you didn’t witness it, use antibiotics without veterinary supervision to bulk up their livestock, not as a disease preventing measure (which at this point is completely legal). I grew up on a farm, and I completely understand how important it is to prevent disease. However, just as is happening in humans, the overuse of antibiotics is creating resistance among certain bacterial stains. I would encourage you to look at the science (I’m assuming you’re not a scientist, because antibiotics DO show up in the finished product) and do some research on the parameters that these activist groups are pushing for, because the use of antibiotics WILL in fact be permitted by these regulations, but it would now need a prescription and a certain time will have needed to pass before slaughter.

  9. I just posted a comment on Subway’s above Facebook comment that was deleted in less than 10 minutes. I’m disgusted with them.

  10. wool meet eyes Subway is pulling a fast one for MONEY all meat is antibiotic free NOW.. honesty people will believe anything as long as it is shoved down their throats..This is a ploy to raise prices and rive meat producers out of business enjoy your tofu sandwich from Sub NO Way. It is NOT good to lie to consumers to increase your bottom line..

  11. The other word for never having antibiotics is organic. Do some research “organic” isn’t always the best, it makes it easy for pest to take over. Also its illegal to sell any animal for butcher with antibiotics in it system. Weve all got sick at some time and having take some kind of antibiotics they do there job and leave you system.

  12. Thank you for the well written blog. It is so frustrating when the public bashes all the very hard work that goes into putting food on their table or in their “service line”. Some day I wish all the “Service” businesses will be at the bottom of the “food chain” ie not making money..and those that “PRODUCE” the food we eat everyday would be on the TOP ie Making a profit and have the million dollar mansions like the subway CEO does. It won’t be in my lifetime, but with few and few farmers, perhaps someday people will realize this ROLE should be REVERSED! We don’t need service, but we do need food, and personally I think we should start a union and raise the prices on these corporations that bash us. No WHEAT for your BREAD then SUBWAY! HA!

  13. A friend of mine was eating at Chipotle and I told her I had heard they weren’t using American Beef. She called the manager and asked him why and this was his response. ‘We get our steak from other countries that are more humane to their cattle.’ She asked just your steak? What about your ground beef? His response was ‘We get that from American producers’… according to Chipotle the cattle raised for steak is not treated humanely in the US but the cattle raised for ground beef is…SMH!!! Seriously?????? Why don’t they just say it is all about the bottom line, period……Tell the truth people!!!! As a member of a family that raises cattle I wish people would make informed decisions and quit believing every propoganda video that is published. People need to educate themselves and understand that there is always an ulterior motive to these videos and they don’t care how wrong they are. Cattle ranchers dont systematically abuse their cattle and they use antibiotics to treat infection just like you or I would for ourselves or our children. I guess the anti-antibiotic fanatics would rather the animal suffer and then die. That makes more sense, right????

  14. Thanks for writing about this. My comments were also deleted almost as soon as they were posted. At first, I thought maybe I just missed it but the more I searched the more I realized the post was actually gone. So I posted again, adding the comment that I thought my first post was deleted. 5 minutes or so later, it was also deleted. I honestly was stunned that Subway would do such a thing – if they truly cared about customer feedback and opinion, why on earth would they delete those opinions!

  15. great voice!!! thank you for speaking up for the farmers!!!!!! will not be going to subway anytime soon if they keep it up!!! wonder where they think they are going to continue to get their food ???

  16. Seems we are all being misdirected. By far, most antibiotics used in beef production have to do with regulating the bacteria in the gut. Acid forming bacteria and non-acid forming bacteria all occur naturally in the rumen and exist there to break the complex carbohydrates in roughages down into digestible forms. This is what makes ruminants different than simple stomached animals, like humans. Products are fed to cattle that limit the growth of acid-forming bacteria while not affecting the growth of nonacid-forming bacteria in order to keep the rumen pH stable. Because these products regulate bacteria populations, they are classified as antibiotics. They are not used on humans, they do not treat contagious disease, they do not lead to antibiotic resistance in other treatment arenas. They simply keep the rumen fresh, and help keep the feed intake of the individual even and consistent. The sky is not falling!

Leave a Reply