Cephalosporins are an important class of antibacterial agents in use today for both humans and animals. Four generations of cephalosporins have evolved, all of which contain the beta-lactam sub-structure first found in penicillin. The range of cephalosporins available for use in food-producing animals, which is the subject of this review, is limited compared to humans. A few first- and second-generation cephalosporins are approved worldwide strictly for treatment of mastitis infections in dairy cattle. A third-generation cephalosporin, ceftiofur, and a fourth-generation cephalosporin, cefquinome, have been developed strictly for veterinary use. Cefquinome has been approved in several countries for the treatment of respiratory disease in cattle and swine, foot rot in cattle and for mastitis in dairy cattle. Ceftiofur has worldwide approvals for respiratory disease in swine, ruminants (cattle, sheep and goats) and horses and has also been approved for foot rot and metritis infections in cattle. Ceftiofur has also been approved in various countries for early mortality infections in day-old chicks and turkey poults. This review summarizes cephalosporin use in general terms, and provides an overview of ceftiofur, in terms of its spectrum of activity, indications, metabolism, and degradation in the environment. The safety of ceftiofur is also reviewed, with respect to food-animal residues, rapid metabolism and degradation, and non-persistence of ceftiofur in the environment. The environmental fragility of cephalosporins have not been explored generally, but may be an important characteristic of this antibiotic class with respect to safety of use in animals.