Our own Niman Ranch Founding Hog Farmer, Paul Willis, recently discussed his appearance on The Dr. Oz Show, and the importance of antibiotic-free pork and animal husbandry in the pork industry.
Antibiotic-Free Pork Q&A With Niman Ranch Hog Farmer, Paul Willis
Q: You recently appeared as a pork industry expert on The Dr. Oz Show about antibiotic-free pork to speak on behalf of traditional, sustainable hog farmers raising pigs without antibiotics. For those who didn’t see the show, what was your main message?
A: Yes, as a life-long farmer, I was honored to be asked to offer my insight on The Dr. Oz Show. This allowed me to share my perspective on how raising animals with the highest level of animal husbandry creates a healthier environment for the animals and removes the need for antibiotics in farm animal production. Today, the public health concern of antibiotic resistance is widespread. In accordance with guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO), Niman Ranch farmers and ranchers follow strict protocols using natural alternatives to antibiotics to support animal wellness. By enforcing our high standard of never-ever antibiotics and using natural alternatives, opposed to antibiotics, Niman Ranch works to prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance.
Q: How did you get your start in the pork industry?
A: Growing up on a farm, raising pastured hogs, we valued the welfare of animals and the environment along with the high-quality taste of the pork we produced. After graduating from the University of Iowa and serving in the Peace Corps, I returned to my family’s farm and began raising free-range pigs. I was dedicated to providing the highest level of animal husbandry and finest tasting meats for my family and others. I was forced to look for alternatives to the commodity market when it was no longer profitable for me to raise hogs traditionally outdoors. I couldn’t compete with the large industrialized operations. I founded Niman Ranch Pork Company after a chance meeting in California with the founder of the cattle company along with a group of legendary chefs. As the company expanded, I brought more neighboring farmers in to meet the growing demand. I also worked closely with animal welfare professionals to implement strict animal husbandry standards including prohibiting the use of antibiotics. Like I said on the show, by setting standards to raise our pigs in pastures and deeply bedded pens and keeping pigs with their mothers for a minimum of 5 weeks, we’ve been able to relieve stress on the animals which allows the animals to stay healthier. At the time I founded the company, I saw antibiotic-use as a pressing concern for not only animals but also consumers.
Q: Paul, do you agree with the recent WHO report that recommended an overall reduction in use of all classes of medically important antimicrobials in food-producing animals?
A: Yes. Absolutely. Years before antibiotic resistance was an immediate public health concern, Alexander Fleming, known for his discovery of the world’s first antibiotic, warned the misuse of penicillin may result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A few years later, his warning became reality. Today, the WHO reports antibiotic resistance as “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development.”
Q: It was mentioned on The Dr. Oz Show that consumers have a choice and can vote with their dollars. Do you agree?
A: Yes! The WHO recommends consumers choose foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals. When I shop in the grocery store I know I have the power to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance by purchasing foods that I know and trust to be raised without antibiotics, including our own Niman Ranch antibiotic-free bacon products. Now is the time to follow the advice of the WHO to prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, one of our greatest threats to global public health.