There was a wonderful rebuttal by Rebecca Thistlethwaite of Honest Meat to the latest free-range debate Op-Ed article in the New York Times written by James McWilliams.
In the original Op-Ed, McWilliams tells us that free-range pork actually has higher levels of trichinosis, a parasite that can be potentially fatal. Pigs that are kept outdoors, he argues, have more contact with wild animals such as rats, which can introduce the parasite into the herd of pigs.
But the rebuttal was excellent. The Honest Meat blogger argued that the study quoted by McWilliams was a preliminary study, the levels of trich were not statistically significant (v. important for research) and the study design was flawed.
So what’s the verdict? Should you eat free-range meat?
I argue that you should. Disease spreads faster in high-density feed lots, so antibiotics must be used, leading to antibiotic resistance… It’s cruel (take a look at the picture in the Honest Meat post) to raise animals so closely together. Plus, free-range meat just tastes better!
Oh, and take a look at the editor’s note in the NYT: the study was published by the National Pork Board. So much for good science.