Before you fire up the grill for your July 4th celebration, we have a request.   Put down the mustard, step away from the relish, and ask yourself:  are the hot dogs sizzling on your holiday barbecue contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance?

Animals raised for meat are routinely dosed with antibiotics to “shave pennies per pound from the price of pork chops or chicken wings that are consumed by millions of Americans every day,” states an article in the San Francisco Chronicle this week that details the grim truth behind this meat industry practice.

80% of antibiotics in the U.S. are currently sold for use in industrial agriculture to make animals grow faster and allow them to survive in cramped, unsanitary living conditions.   This inappropriate use of the drugs is creating ‘superbugs’ that are harder to treat, and contributing to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

It’s a problem that’s reaching crisis level, according to the many health officials and doctors who are seeing more and more patients with once-treatable infections now resistant to nearly all antibiotics.

In some hospitals, “every milligram of antibiotic use is scrutinized,” said Dr. Tom Newman, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF.   ”To be using them in such huge quantities because it saves you a few cents a pound on the cost of raising the meat just seems so extravagant, so inappropriate.”

Humans don’t take antibiotics every day to stay healthy, and neither should animals raised for food.

This July 4th holiday, take the pledge to be a part of the solution and declare your independence from meat raised on antibiotics.    Use your power as a consumer to support the farmers, companies and stores that sell these products and send a message to the meat industry to stop the inappropriate use of these drugs.

To help you in your shopping, look for meat with labels including Organic and “No Antibiotics Used”, “Raised Without Antibiotics” and other similar claims (for more on labels to trust see here).    Also keep an eye out for beef with the  American Grassfed Association label, which is from cows not given antibiotics.  Also, the Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Humane labels mean antibiotics were only used to treat sick animals.

A critical mass of shoppers demanding these products will begin to move the market – and the meat industry.    Take the July 4th pledge and make sure your holiday feast is helping preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for when we really need them.