Saturday, April 11, 2009

Free Range Pork Lies

Updated: Here is a link to a rebuttal by an organic farmer Rebecca about the article in question

Marion Nestle highlights something that just makes me furious every time I see it happening. In this case it is an op-ed in the New York Times stating that free range pork is more susceptible to being infected with Salmonella, toxoplasma, and trichina than pigs raised in factory farms. Most readers will take this at face value and not think to question the science or the motive behind the quoted source.

In this case the author of the op-ed, James McWilliams is a well respected and prize-winning historian at Texas State San Marcos whose forthcoming book is about the dangers of the locavore movement to the future of food. What is not revealed by the article is that while his source, Foodborne Pathogens and Disease , did find higher “seropositivity” (antibodies) in the free range pigs’ blood than in factory pig blood that the presence of antibodies does not necessarily mean that the animals - or their meat - are infected. It means that the free-range pigs were exposed to the organisms at some point and developed immunity to them. The industrial pigs were not exposed and did not develop immunity to these microorganisms. The article also doesn't reveal that the source research was funded by the National Pork Board which has a vested interest in making free range meat less attractive to consumers.

You see this all the time when it comes to "studies" that show industrial food or processed food is better for you than natural or real food. The High Fructose Corn Syrup ads are a good example. You always have to ask yourself who funded the study and what they have to gain from the results.

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