Pork spokesman stresses effectiveness of animal antibiotics

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Jim Dayton
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

JANESVILLE—Being overly health conscious sometimes leads people to worry that harmful chemicals are in the food supply.

Such concerns are unfounded when it comes to pork, National Pork Board spokesman Greg Sambs said.

Sambs visited Edison Middle School in Janesville on Tuesday for a Wisconsin School Nutrition Association meeting. His presentation explained why the use of antibiotics in animals actually leads to healthier food.

Antibiotic use is based on veterinarian oversight in compliance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drugs must be used to treat, prevent or control the spread of disease, Sambs said.

Antibiotics can reduce mortality and protect animal health. If a pig is sick, withholding treatment is considered unethical, he said.

Higher-quality pork proves the effectiveness of antibiotics, he said.

Pigs are 75 percent leaner today compared to the 1950s. That improvement comes thanks to antibiotics and smarter production techniques, he said.

Decades ago, pigs were raised outside and needed to be fat to survive harsh winters. Now, pigs are raised in specialized barns that protect them from predators and bad weather, Sambs said.

The barns can be climate-controlled and provide a constant level of care and nutrition, he said.

Healthy pigs mean healthy food. The American Heart Association certified pork tenderloin as a heart-healthy food in 2011 and followed suit five years later with pork sirloin roast.

Still, concerns abound.

It’s common for people to worry about antibiotic residue in their food. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture tests meat to make sure it does not have any trace of antibiotics before it hits grocery stores and butcher shops, Sambs said.

Any pork labeled “hormone-free” is just a marketing slogan. No hormones are allowed in the pork market, he said.

While he stressed that antibiotics are safe, Sambs said few pigs are on antibiotics for an extended period of time. Improved production practices have decreased such a need.

Sambs said he hoped his presentation Tuesday and others like it can help alleviate people’s concerns.

“The consumer probably didn’t even think about it years ago,” he said. “They probably don’t understand the process very well, and that’s one of the reasons we go out and talk about it. We have a pretty positive story to tell.”

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