This article was originally published by OnEarth magazine.
Before I even stepped from my truck onto the gravel outside the New Fashion Pork hog confinement facility, Emily Erickson, the company’s animal well-being and quality assurance manager, handed me a pair of stretchy white plastic footies to put over my shoes. It was a blustery day in September, the sky threatening snow—the first hint of winter, when cold, dry air stabilizes viruses and biosecurity becomes a topmost concern. Read more
In a new study of raw pork chops and ground pork, Consumer Reports found 69 percent samples were contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica, according to a report published by the group today. A lesser-known foodborne pathogen, Yersinia enterocolitica can cause fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, lasting one to three weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is approximately one confirmed infection per 100,000 people reported each year, but since these cases are severely under-reported, CDC estimates there are actually around 100,000 infections in the United States annually.
Consumer Reports tested 198 samples and found that while the vast majority were positive for Yersinia, only 3 to 7 percent were positive for more the more common foodborne pathogens Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus or Listeria monocytogenes.
According to the report, several of the isolates found were resistant to one or more antibiotics: Six of the eight Salmonella samples, 13 of the 14 Staphylococcus samples and 121 of the 132 Yersinia samples. The study also found MRSA on one sample.
The group points to the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture as a key contributor to the resistance problem. Read more
The editors of Scientific American recently encouraged U.S. hog farmers to “follow Denmark and stop giving farm animals low-dose antibiotics.” Sixteen years ago, in order to reduce the threat of increased development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in their food system and the environment, Denmark phased in an antibiotic growth promotant ban in food animal production. Guess what? According to Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries the ban is working and the industry has continued to thrive. The government agency found that Danish livestock and poultry farmers used 37 percent less antibiotics in 2009 than in 1994, leading to overall reductions of antimicrobial resistance countrywide. Read more
The possible, the probable, and even the unlikely links between the recent H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak and modern pork production have received unprecedented attention in the past weeks.
I have personally written three pieces on the flu (here, here, and here). My newspaper article in particular received a tsunami of feedback. While I might normally receive a handful or two of emails after each of my EcoChef columns, in this case I received nearly four times that amount. What was particularly interesting about the feedback was that is was so clearly bifurcated: praising me for exploring these issues and asking for more clarification or lambasting me for my ignorance and stupidity for writing such nonsense.
In my defense, I want to clearly point out that I have never claimed there was a direct link between the H1N1 and CAFOs, from the Mexican Smithfield plant or any other. Read more
Last Friday, an op-ed hit the pages of the New York Times written by James McWilliams (“Free Range Trichinosis”) purporting that free-range pork was more likely to be contaminated with the deadly parasite trichonosis than its industrially sardined and antibiotic-overdosed cousin. The writer chose to take this information from a single study funded by the National Pork Board, a lobbying group for industrial pork operations, and neglected to mention that the the two free-range pigs (out of 600) had tested positive for antibodies of trichinosis, not specifically the disease itself. Read more
It is necessary to question our movement. Without a cold, hard look at the snags in implementing a sustainable food system, someone ill-informed will crawl out of the woodwork clinging to their credentials and poke holes in our arguments, whether with valid points or not, possibly shilling for Big Ag or just looking to market themselves as a contrarian.
Today, a free-range dissenter ended up in the op-ed pages of the New York Times, seemingly to defend factory farmed pork. Read more