Food & Drink

What It Takes To Feed Ukraine, The 2022 Dirty Dozen And Is It Really Antibiotic-Free?

A landmark study published in Science last week has fueled doubt among consumers of meat sold with labels claiming it was raised without antibiotics.

The study was coauthored by antibiotic-resistance-focused researchers from George Washington University and Kevin Lo, the CEO of FoodID. I wrote about the startup a year ago, when FoodID had raised a $12 million series B to take its inexpensive tests into industrial slaughterhouses nationwide. At the time, executives and investors told me they were getting many bad test results. Now there’s peer-reviewed proof.

They sampled cattle from across 12% of the supply of beef raised without antibiotics over a seven-month period—more than 38,000 cattle total. FoodID tested samples from 699 cattle, or 2 cattle from each lot in the study.

Their results suggest many labels are misleading: More than 40% of the feed yards sampled—and about 15% of the total lots tested across all feed yards—had at least one case of cattle testing positive for antibiotics. The study also found that more than a quarter of the cattle sampled from the Global Animal Partnership welfare certification program, used by Whole Foods and hundreds of other retailers and meat purchasers, had at least one positive test. Whole Foods denies it has sold meat raised with antibiotics when the label claims none.

But ranchers to retailers all earn more for antibiotic-free meat, and there’s a financial incentive to cheat, study coauthor and public health professor Lance Price tells me. Testing provides a simple, cheap and quick solution to this problem—but so far adoption is limited to what FoodID can access.

Price wants to see more testing and more transparency on what meat is testing positive for antibiotics treatments. “This is a very tight industry. Most don’t let people on site to do this kind of testing,” he says. “Nobody wants to report, and nobody wants anybody else in the chain to report.”

I look forward to writing more on how the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has sole authority to approve labels, responds to these results, and what consumers do.

And I appreciate you reading this edition of Fresh Take on a Monday, after I battled a nasty cold last week. After the Passover and Easter holidays, we’ll be back to our regular Friday programming.

If you’re celebrating one of these springtime holidays (or another one!), I’d love to hear what you’re cooking. I enjoy riffing on a traditional seder. My sister has the matzoh balls covered. I’ll also celebrate Easter—which I do appreciate for having fewer rules, except maybe to avoid cooking rabbit.

It’s not quite ramp season here in New York City, which is a shame as they’re always a great addition to any lamb. That’s what I’m planning on eating a fair amount of, particularly the grass-fed kind from my local partner network. At some point soon, I’ll also probably try out a little tortellini and peas, covered in a zesty cream sauce, topped with mint. How about you?

— Chloe Sorvino, Staff Writer

This is Forbes’ Fresh Take newsletter, which every Friday brings you the latest on the big ideas changing the future of food. Want to get it in your inbox every week? Sign up here.


What’s Fresh

Getting Food To Hungry Ukrainians Takes Brave Drivers, A Generous Chicken Company And Sympathetic Lenders. MHP, the biggest food company still operating in the war-torn country, finds that cooperation from workers and investors—and a successful military—are essential to advancing its humanitarian efforts. Story by yours truly.

These Fruits And Vegetables Have The Most Pesticides. Once again, strawberries, spinach and leafy greens like kale and collards are the top offenders in the Environmental Working Group’s annual Dirty Dozen list, reports Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner.

As Restaurant Chains Continue To Raise Prices, Consumers Are Starting To Notice. Data shows that more than 60% of consumers are unhappy over restaurant prices, Alicia Kelso reports.

Egg Prices Up 52% As Avian Flu Has Affected Birds Across 22 States. As Easter approaches, at least 90 flocks have already been affected by the highly pathogenic avian influenza. Chicken prices have been rising, too, Bruce Lee reports.


I cannot resist a good raw bar at a wedding. The year 2022 will host the most weddings in recorded history, including mine. How many are you planning to attend this year?


Chloe Sorvino leads coverage of food and agriculture as a staff writer on the enterprise team at Forbes. Her nearly eight years of reporting at Forbes has brought her to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, drought-ridden farms in California’s Central Valley, burnt-out national forests logged by a timber billionaire, a century-old slaughterhouse in Omaha and even a chocolate croissant factory designed like a medieval castle in Northern France. Her book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat, will publish in December 2022 with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.

Thanks for reading the thirty-first edition of Forbes Fresh Take! Let me know what you think. Subscribe to Forbes Fresh Take here.

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