Ever had strep?  A UTI?  You probably ran to the drug store with a scribbled prescription for antibiotics and felt a whole lot better within a couple of days.

It’s a scenario we all take for granted.

But the CDC is sounding the alarm that antibiotic resistance “is considered one of the world’s most critical public health threats” as it hosts its fifth annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week in observance of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use.

While this effort by the CDC focuses on reining in overuse of antibiotics in humans, the fact is that the vast majority – about 80% – of these drugs in the US are used in livestock production.   Animals like chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs are often given antibiotics to make them grow faster, and enable them to survive in cramped and unsanitary living conditions.   As in humans, antibiotics should only be given to animals when they’re truly sick.  The current way the meat industry misuses these critical drugs contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Which brings us to… your Thanksgiving table.   Americans will be serving up about 46 million turkeys next week at their Thanksgiving feasts.  While you’re thinking about all the into the tasty dishes to serve alongside your bird (let’s be honest, it’s really all about the mashed potatoes and stuffing), take a minute to think about what went into the bird you plan to serve, too.   When you’re out shopping for your turkey this weekend, look for these kinds of labels to ensure your bird isn’t contributing to the problem of antibiotic resistance:

  • Organic:  Certified Organic animals are never given antibiotics or growth hormones.  They also eat organic feed that does not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or other animal byproducts.

  • Raised without Antibiotics/ No Antibiotics Administered (and other variations):   This means that the animals, according to the manufacturer or marketer, have not received antibiotics throughout their lifetimes.  This claim is even more reliable when coupled with a “USDA Process Verified” label, which means that the company’s claim has been certified by the agency.

  • Animal Welfare Approved:  A great label that tells you a lot about how the animal was raised: on a family farm, on a pasture or range, with very high standards for animal treatment and environmental practices.  These animals are never given growth hormones and are given antibiotics only when sick.

Thankfully, antibiotics still work for many of the illnesses and injuries we need them for.  Let’s keep it that way.  This Thanksgiving, give thanks for these miracle drugs and do everything you can keep them working in the future.  That means making sure that neither you – nor your Thanksgiving bird – take antibiotics when you don’t need them.