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Pigs without antibiotics: One worry less for retailers

In a short time, an increasing amount of businesses across North Western Europe have come into existence, producing pigs without antibiotics. Communication is key, according to Gé Backus, director at ‘Connecting Agri&Food’.

Pig Progress: In your view producing antibiotic-free pork is an opportunity?

Gé Backus, Connecting Agri&Food: “That certainly does offer opportunities for pig meat chains. For retail it is attractive as they don’t have to worry about this. Consumers have an increasing amount of choice and a part of them will feel considerably better about it, without the meat becoming more expensive.”

Pigs without antibiotics: One worry less for retailers

Where do you see sales opportunities?

“Especially on the market in North Western Europe as well as in the United States. The European ‘Campig’ research amongst consumers showed that approximately 1 in 5 consumers say that natural pork without ‘additions’ can be considered one of the three most important motives for purchase.”

Is it the right time to start growing antibiotic-free pigs?

“Certainly. Health is important and consumers considerably attach more value to it.”

How about the sale of other parts of the pig?

“This will certainly be a matter of attention. I don’t see, however, why this would be different for this product than for e.g. organic meat or for ‘Better Life’ pork.” (Better Life is an animal welfare brand in the Netherlands)

Pigs raised without antibiotics are a different concept as meat without antibiotics. Photo: Henk Riswick.
Pigs raised without antibiotics are a different concept as meat without antibiotics. Photo: Henk Riswick.

What will happen when by accident a pig that was treated with antibiotics enters the ‘antibiotic-free’ funnel?

“Businesses selling antibiotic-free meat will have to prove that they can guarantee accuracy. Otherwise the initiative is going to fail.”

Often heard: selling meat from pigs raised without antibiotics makes conventional meat sound ‘suspect’, although unintentional. Is that a fair comment?

“It could indeed be a risk that choosing a certain product will be at the expense of another product in a similar range. In this case there’s the risk that consumers may choose ‘antibiotics-free’ instead of ‘conventional’. For conventional pork a waiting time applies, and no meat may be sold with antibiotics in it. Selling antibiotic-free meat cannot be the reason for sales, as the conventional meat is already free from antibiotics. The added value therefore has to be expressed in other added value, like e.g. attention to the animal health.”

How to sell ‘antibiotic-free’ meat?

“The reason for sale should be that it is new and surprising for consumers, in the best possible way. So it should not be framed negatively by emphasising that no drugs were used, but the positive side should be emphasised.”


  • O. P. Mr. Oluwadare

    Yes, I strongly believe in ethno-veterinary resources and preventive husbandry as optional alternatives to the use of antibiotics in livestock production. In addition, high environmental hygiene and perimeter biosecurity is pivotal to eliminate disease-causing pathogens.

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  • Willie Geverink

    One worry less for retailers? What a load of bullshit! Retailers in western Europe and North America have not had anything to worry about for decades! Now the industry is more or less telling the consumer that since they are selling antibiotic free pork that mainstream pork products must contain antibiotics which is absolutely not true! First of all, antibiotic use on mainstream farms is already very minimal to begin with. Quality assurance programs, strict protocols on farms and continues testing at slaughterplants have insured consumers of a wholesome quality product that is free of antibiotics and has been so for decades! Do not try to make yourselves look good by making your hardworking mainstream colleagues look bad!

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