Most consumers are pretty satisfied with Trader Joe's, right? Sure there are some who could take or leave the chain, but considering how crowded Trader Joe's is and how long the lines are, it's easy to tell it's a pretty popular place.
But according to a recently conducted poll by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, a lot of folks think Trader Joe's should stop selling meat and poultry whose feed contains antibiotics.
Many health experts are against antibiotics being routinely fed to animals for a variety of reasons, including the potential for bacteria to build up a resistance to the drugs.
"Once there is a resistance to the drug, it would not be effective in treating an infection," said Dr. Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, a pharmacy professor at the Universiti Sains Malaysia.
However, most of Trader Joe's customers feel good about the efforts the company makes and many believe it's doing a good job of not selling products that are bad for humans or the environment.
In addition, the poll shows that although customers feel good about many of Trader Joe's practices, plenty of folks still have no idea that it sells meat from animals that have been treated with large doses of antibiotics.
Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, says although consumers are generally pleased with Trader Joe's, they still want the company to go another route with its meat products.
"Trader Joe's is clearly not living up to its customers' expectations when it comes to antibiotics and meat," said Halloran. "Trader Joe's customers want the company to take a stand on this critical public health issue by refusing to sell meat from animals routinely fed antibiotics."
Consumers raise their voices
Consumers are speaking up about the issue. So far, more than 650,000 consumers have either signed petitions, flyers or postcards and almost 5,000 have voiced their opinion on Trader Joe's customer service line.
Of course it's not just Trader Joe's that's selling meat with antibiotics; most other stores do it too, and according to The New York Times, drug makers sold nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics for livestock in 2011, which was around 80% of all antibiotic sales that year.
But groups like the National Pork Producers Council are giving a lot of pushback and suggest there still isn't enough proof about the supposed dangers of eating meat from animals that have been fed large doses of antibiotics.
"Not only is there no scientific study linking antibiotic resistance in humans, as the U.S. pork industry has continually pointed out, but there isn't even adequate data to conduct a study," said the group in a 2011 statement.
How much do they know?
In the Consumer Reports poll, only 23% of Trader Joe's customers are aware that the company sells meat with antibiotics. And 87% said the grocery chain should work with outside groups to avoid this practice.
Additionally, 69% of Trader Joe's customers believe all grocery stores selling meat from animals treated with antibiotics are doing a disservice to their customers, while 56% feel the opposite.
Other findings show that 78% of consumers would rather shop at a store that doesn't sell antibiotic-dosed meat. And when consumers were asked what was more important to them -- non-antibiotic meat or cheaper prices -- only 30% said price was more important.
But some are confused as to why Trader Joe's can't sell all of its meat without antibiotics, since 80% of its products are private label, which should give the company a little more power with its suppliers.
Even its critics admit the company is doing more than a lot of chains when it comes to selling natural products. But Halloran says it can still do more.
"Public health experts agree that we must curb the overuse of antibiotics in livestock to preserve their effectiveness to treat disease," he said.
"We can't afford to continue wasting vital medications by routinely feeding them to healthy animals. Trader Joe's should use its leverage with suppliers to live up to its customers' expectations and stop selling meat raised on antibiotics."
On May 3 of this year, Trader Joe's issued a note to customers on its website that lists which items are antibiotic-free. And the company says that based on customers' requests, it's very interested in offering meat and poultry products that are antibiotic-free.
"We understand the importance of our customers' decisions when it comes to their grocery shopping and do not presume to make choices for them," the company wrote. "We work hard to offer products we think fit our customers needs--covering a range of considerations."
"When it comes to meat and poultry, Trader Joe's offers items from sources of a conventional nature (where antibiotics are likely used) and sources that do not use antibiotics (organic or explicitly labeled as anti-biotic-free [ABF]."
You can read the full note here.
Trader Joe's did not immediately respond to an email seeking further comment.