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Can producers safely raise pigs without antibiotics?

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AUDIO: Jeff Sizelove, vice president of United States pork and poultry for Zoetis

A number of food processors and fast-food chains have pledged to sell antibiotic-free poultry products, but what about pork products? Can producers safely raise pigs without antibiotics?

Jeff Sizelove serves as vice president of United States pork and poultry for Zoetis. Sizelove says Zoetis, its producers and veterinarians believe antibiotics play an important role in raising pigs.

“It’s an important tool to have antibiotics as part of the process,” Sizelove says. “It’s important to be able to treat pigs individually or medicate them by putting medicated feed additives into the process of raising healthy pigs.”

Zoetis fears complications would arise if producers tried to raise pigs without antibiotics.

“If you’re not treating a sick animal, they’re going to get sicker, as well as spread that to other animals within the pin,” Sizelove said. “From an animal welfare standpoint, we want to do the right thing for the animal, as well as make sure when the animal goes to the processing plant and is harvested for the food supply, that it is healthy when it gets there.”

Sizelove says the concept of raising pigs without antibiotics stems from a trend seen in the poultry industry.

“In poultry, we’re hearing a lot of, ‘No Antibiotics Ever,’” Sizelove said. “In the pork industry, not much of that is happening. I think it’s because (we’re) much transparent with the consumer that we’re using antibiotics for the right reasons. Not to say that poultry is using them for the wrong reasons. It’s just, that ship has sailed, if you will, from a marketing standpoint.”

Zoetis reminds consumers of withdrawal periods which ensure pork products are antibiotic-free upon entering the marketplace.

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