Alliance welcomes introduction of higher-welfare "raised without antibiotics" pig production

The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics welcomes the Spoilt Pig / Brydock farms partnership introduction of higher-welfare “raised without antibiotics” pig production and pork products for consumers. The initiative shows how major improvements in animal husbandry and welfare can greatly contribute to reducing farm antibiotic use, while still delivering affordable meat.

The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics hopes that the pig industry will learn from the new system which shows that responsible farming can both promote animal health and welfare and help protect the future of antibiotics [1].

Under the system, the piglets are farrowed outdoors and brought indoors at weaning age. They are then kept at low stocking densities [2], on deep-straw bedding and with natural ventilation.

There is no tail docking or teeth clipping, practices which are still often practised routinely on a herd-wide basis on intensive pig farms.

The Alliance believes that it is important to avoid weaning piglets too early because later weaning helps piglets develop greater immunity against disease and therefore reduces the need for antibiotics. Good examples of late weaning are Swedish pig farming (average weaning age 35 days) and organic pig farming (average weaning age >40 days). On intensive farms, piglets can be weaned as early as 21 days, and the average weaning age in the UK is 26 days, whereas Brydock Farms wean slightly later at 28 days.

Early weaning is stressful for piglets and associated with diarrhoea. Brydock Farms piglets often receive zinc oxide to control this problem, as also occurs on a large majority of intensive pig farms, but the European Union is considering banning zinc oxide as a therapeutic feed additive due to its adverse environmental impacts and role in promoting antibiotic resistance. However, Brydock farms say they are already working to phase out zinc oxide in anticipation of the ban and have begun trials where the piglets are not fed zinc oxide.


  • Under the new system, when required pigs do receive antibiotic treatment, usually on an individual basis. Treated pigs are then sold separately, but still under a Freedom Food label. In total, 85-90% of pigs raised receive no antibiotics.
  • When kept indoors, the pigs are kept at stocking densities which are 15% lower than the maximum stocking density permitted under Freedom Food standards.
  • The Alliance has issued this supportive statement because we feel confident that this company’s approach to reducing antibiotic use involves improved husbandry and animal welfare. However, we are aware that some attempts to produce “antibiotic-free” meat, as manifested in some meat supply chains in the United States, can put animal welfare at risk when treatment is not provided in cases when it is needed. The Alliance does not endorse “antibiotic-free” intensive systems where animal health and welfare may be seriously compromised in this way. The term “antibiotic-free” may also mislead the consumer into thinking that the main problem with overusing antibiotics in livestock is the residues that end up in food, when in fact most scientific evidence suggests that it is primarily the spread of resistant bacteria on food or through the environment which is responsible for the transmission of resistance from farm-animals to humans.