Hogs raised without antibiotics were recently sent to market by farmers at Spring Creek Hutterite Colony near the Alberta and Saskatchewan border. The pork is planned for sale in greater Vancouver and the lower mainland.

The shipment of 200 hogs at market weight of 265 pounds (120 kilograms) was loaded August 4. A second similar shipment was scheduled August 9. The customer for both is Britco Pork Inc., based in Langley, BC, a specialty pork processing division of Donald’s Fine Foods.

Spring Creek is among the earliest Canadian prairie region producers to ship pork that meets legal standards for the raised-without-antibiotic claim, according to a press release. To label pig meat as raised without antibiotics in Canada, the animal may not have been treated with antibiotics, administered by any method, from birth to slaughter or harvest, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“Any time you change a production approach you have to be very careful,” said Paul Hofer, swine manager for Spring Creek Colony, in a press release. “We were a bit nervous at first, but we took it slow, got the right advice and implemented the right practices.”

“Average days to market, feed conversion, gain, even mortality, it’s either similar or often significantly better under the new program,” said Mike Hofer, assistant swine manager, in a press release.

Pig farmers’ rising interest in reduced use of antimicrobials has been driven by changing marketplace demands for no-antibiotics meat, along with upcoming restrictions, such as the Veterinary Feed Directive in the US, which takes effect January 1, 2017, and similar new rules planned for Canada.

If any animals need to be treated with antimicrobials for health reasons that’s what is done, said Paul Hofer. “But we separate the treated animals out so they go to a different market not with the RWA animals. So far we haven’t had to treat many.”

Spring Creek colony passed regular third-party audits to ensure raised without antibiotics status.