The Black Farmer has worked closely with partner farms to establish farming and production methods in response, he said, to the rising resistance to antibiotics. The selection of fresh British pork cuts from RSPCA assured pork, on sale at online retailer Ocado, can be identified by the blue Antibiotic Free swing tag.
The company said its ‘unique farming method’ means that the sows are free to roam outside and are fed on only vegetarian feed. The system guarantees that piglets are born outdoors and reared without the use of antibiotics from birth. Such a high level of welfare means that there is a consistent supply of healthy, natural pig meat from happy pigs, the company claimed.
However, the initiative has proved controversial within the pig industry because of the potentially misleading comments by Mr Emmanuel-Jones accompanying the launch, including the suggestion consumers don’t want products that have been ‘inoculated’.
He said: “Unbeknown to the consumer, pork rearing involves the blanket use of antibiotics. The farming industry will tell us that it is in the best interest of the animals, and I for one don’t want to see animals suffer unnecessarily. If they need antibiotics, they should be given them.
“Overuse and unnecessary use of antibiotics is leading to disease resistant strains. I believe that there is a growing number of consumers who prefer not to be consuming meat that has been inoculated, just as there are consumers who prefer their meat to be reared to organic standards or within RSPCA Approved guidelines.
“The consumer has been fantastic at pushing our industry into improving farming practices, making this country’s animal welfare standards some of the best in the world. Raised without antibiotics is another step in that direction. I am glad to be the first to market with this concept in pork cuts.”
NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said: “While we welcome any initiative to reduce antibiotic use on farms, some of the comments here risk misleading consumers.
“Pork rearing does not involve blanket use of antibiotics. The industry has made huge strides over the past two years to use antibiotics more responsibly – overall usage was down 35% last year, with use of critically important antibiotics falling by 73%. Usage will continue to fall as the industry strives to meet ambitious reduction targets up to 2020.
“The danger with Antibiotic Free labels is that they perpetuate the myth that giving antibiotics to animals is bad. Antibiotics used responsibly and proportionally are an essential part of maintaining animal health and welfare.
“The labels also risk misleading consumers into believing the meat they are eating might contain antibiotic residues that pose risks to their health. That is not the case.
Georgina also pointed out that Mr Emmanuel Jones’ comments appeared to confuse antibiotic use with vaccination, which is not related to antibiotic use and is a very important health tool for the livestock industry.
To see the NPA’s briefing on antibiotic free labelling, click here