Milk and Antibiotics: What You Need to Know

October 17, 2016

Every day, the dairy community strives to do things responsibly – from taking care of cows to making sure your food is safe. 

One part of that is helping people understand how antibiotics are used on the farm, and why you can know that all milk at the grocery store is antibiotic-free

Sometimes it’s necessary for dairy farmers to treat their cows with antibiotics when they’re ill, just as we sometimes need medication when we’re sick; however, there are strict government standards and protocols that ensure all milk you buy at the store does not contain antibiotics. These procedures help make milk one of the most tested and safest foods you can buy.

How can you know for sure?

In 2015, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine reported that your milk is safe after collecting milk samples from nearly 2,000 dairy farms across the country.

Here’s how our farmers make sure your milk is safe:

  • First, dairy farmers take special care to make sure their cows are healthy. When a cow does need antibiotics, they follow best practices to help the animal recover. 
  • While the cow is on antibiotics, she’ll be housed in a special area and her milk will be kept separated and until the drugs have fully cleared her system. Read one farmer and veterinarian’s story of how she decided to use antibiotics to help a sick cow recover.
  • Watch dairy farmer Brenda Hastings explain how farmers keep antibiotics out of milk.

The testing and protocols don’t end there. Read more about antibiotic testing in milk:

  • When a milk truck comes to pick up a dairy’s milk, the driver takes a sample of the milk. Once the driver arrives at the milk plant, another sample is taken to make sure the milk is free of antibiotics. Watch this video to learn about the many tests milk goes through.
  • Have more questions? Here we have dairy farmer Linnea Kooistra debunking common questions about myths about antibiotics:


Looking to learn more?

  • Our friends at have answered some common questions about antibiotics and milk.
  • Check out this infographic from the International Dairy Foods Association on the FDA’s recent report.
  • For more detailed information, read through this fact sheet from the Midwest Dairy Association.

How the dairy industry keeps antibiotics out of milk


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