More Reasons Not To Eat Pork

I used to be an avid fan of The Simpsons. I still like the show, and watch the reruns often, but I don't watch it nearly as much as I used to. That doesn't stop me from quoting the show however. One of my favorite quotes is from the Episode "Lisa The Vegetarian."

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?
Lisa: No.
Homer: Ham?
Lisa: No!
Homer: Pork chops?
Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal!
Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal.

Most of my friends and family members are omnivorous. Many of them believe they are doing the "right" thing by eating organic foods. I've put right in quotations, because right is a subjective term, and organic is perceived as being a better choice than conventionally produced foods. However, it appears this isn't necessarily the case, for pork at least.

“Animal-friendly, outdoor farms tend to have a higher occurrence of Salmonella, as well as higher rates of parasitic disease,” said lead study author Wondwossen Gebreyes, associate professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State University.

Site: The PigSite.com

Wondwossen Gebreyes and colleagues at Ohio State University in Columbus tested US pigs for antibodies - telltale signs of infection - to pathogens that can also affect humans. They found traces of Salmonella in 39 per cent of pigs raised in standard indoor pens and routinely given antibiotics, but in 54 per cent of organic pigs raised outdoors without the drugs.

This poses a dilemma, says Gebreyes: giving pigs routine antibiotics favours antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but not giving them drugs means more animals carry Salmonella, which causes a million cases of food poisoning a year in the US alone.

Site: New Scientist Magazine

It gets even better... Gebreyes' team found traces of Toxoplasma in 7 percent of free-range animals but only 1 percent of conventional pigs. They also found two organic pigs infected with Trichinella. This is particularly troubling as Trichinella is virtually non-existent in livestock in the the US and Europe, although it is still found in wildlife populations. Finding this parasite in two pigs of the 600 tested is 23 times its average frequency in US pigs.

Any way you slice it, it looks like the "magical animal" isn't so wonderful. If you eat conventionally raised pork, you are contributing the overuse of antibiotics, pollution, and a more inhumane treatment of animals (among other things). If you eat "organic" pork, you are potentially exposing yourself to bacterial infection, contributing to the contamination of groundwater with pathogens such as Salmonella, and contributing to a slightly less inhumane treatment of pigs (among other things). The costs of eating meat are simply too high.

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Comments

  1. I twittered about this, but I thought I should relay it here.

    Great info here! I wasn’t aware of the salmonella epidemic or the trichinella problem. Of relation to the “cost of meat” it’s important to mention that the 2nd largest polluter in America is animal production. An incredible amount of CO2, just look it up. It’s also worth mentioning that to grow one pound of meat requires 10 TIMES more water than to grow one pound of grain. This combined with other factors may actually make widescale meat production unfeasible in the near future. Hard to imagine, but just consider the growth rate of things. Meat is a luxury, that’s why the spanish are able to survive. Did you know that spanish dishes contain rice and beans combined because together they create the entire protein complex?

    The slogan of the 21st century may become “no meat included (nor required)”. But just imagine how much healthier people will be! :)

  2. “No meat required” – I want a t-shirt with that on!

  3. Hi Byteful,
    I ran across an article recently where the author wrote that we’d all be vegan in 50 years out of necessity. So, it may be difficult to imagine, but it looks like a reality.
    As for the concept of complete protein, that argument appears to be no longer valid. All you have to do is eat a wide variety of produce over the course of the day and you’ll be set. I don’t recall where I read that (I think it was the China Study), but
    this post
    says it all.
    Excellent slogan! I’m with Kate, I’d buy that t-shirt!

  4. Thanks guys! I’ve been looking into CafePress custom shirts, so that just may become a reality. And when that happens, it’ll be on byteful.com :)

  5. Bea Elliott says:

    I like to think that nature endowed all animals with little “don’t eat me” messages. Sort of like porqupine quills: Cattle get BSE, chickens – avian flu/samonella – pigs of course all sorts of diseases as mentioned – Even wild “game” have a varied “wasting diseases” and can transmit TB….. Hopefully, the more that man and the meat industries “tweak” – the sharper the quill points will get.

  6. Excellent post, thank you. I might just add that “organic” per se does not imply any welfare improvements whatsoever for animals, and may, as you’ve shown, result in even more misery.

    I’ve heard from a few sources now that organic dairy farms may be harder on cows than non-organic. Both are horrific, of course, and filled with cruelty and killing. On organic farms, cows may not be given antibiotics to clear up the infections they get in large part by being engineered and coerced to produce enormous volumes of milk almost constantly.

    Going vegan is such a straightforward, comprehensive, and kind solution to these human-induced problems.

  7. Hi Byteful,
    Good luck!!!

    Hi Beau,
    Those are some pretty serious “don’t eat me” signs!

    Hi Gary,
    Thank you. I agree that organic does not imply a better life for animals, however, this article specifies the organic pigs are free ranging too.
    I was not aware that the animals are not given antibiotics to clear up infections – but that makes sense… then the meat producers can’t label them “organic.” Every time I turn around I learn more and more about how “bad” it is to eat meat, for us, for the animals, and for the planet.

  8. Lane: The same person who invoked the protein complimentarity demon was the first one to put it down (though it’s dying a lingering death.)

    Frances Moore Lappe wrote about protein complimentarity in her first edition of “Diet for a Small Planet” back in the early 1970s. That was one of the first veg books I ever read (The first was “Laurel’s Kitchen” which mom gave me for a wedding present back in the early 80s.) and I was all gung-ho about the protein complimentarity thing for years, even though it made some recipes a little odd when you got the ingredients to the “proper” proportions to make complete proteins.

    In the anniversary edition of “Diet for a Small Planet”, FML writes that she had been trying to lay the protein complimentarity myth to rest for the last twenty years and said that she had created a monster. Her intention in writing about protein complimentarity in such excruciating detail in her original book had been to prove to the naysayers that a vegetarian diet could supply just as much usable protein as a meat diet.

    The national obsession with protein is a by-product of the meat and dairy lobbyist, by the way. We don’t need all those gobs and gobs of protein that people worry and obsess about. Getting us all hyped up about the specter of protein deficiency was just a way to sell more beef.

    If you look at the world population, seeking out cases of protein deficiency, you’ll find that the only people who suffer from it are those who are also suffering from a calorie deficiency. In other words, so long as you aren’t starving, it’s a safe bet that you’re getting enough protein.

  9. Hi Sparrow,
    Interestingly we just heard two twenty somethings propagating that myth on the train last week. I didn’t know that Lappe tried to rescind the complimentary theory.
    I know that we, as a society, get too much protein. And I agree that there’s an obsession around protein. However, it is possible to be vegan today and eat nothing but junk. So, for that reason, I think it’s okay for people to focus on protein when switching over to a vegan diet. Assuming that if they’re reading labels for protein content, they’ll be learning about the other nutrients they’re ingesting as well. (that may be a large assumption.)
    I did read the protein obsession was fueled by the meat and dairy industries in The China Study. Makes perfect sense. And is further proof that the food industry is out to line their wallets rather than make us healthy.
    Anyway, we’re not nutritionists here, so ultimately, we encourage people to talk with their doctors / nutritionists for advice specific to their situations.

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