'Better' Pork Carries Big Health Risks

Free-range pork may relieve your guilt, but bother your tummy
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2009 9:33 AM CDT
Workers inject vaccine into a piglet on a pig farm in Suining, in southwest China's Sichuan province, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2009.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Free-range pork sounds better for everyone involved, especially the pig. But exposure to the outdoors means exposure to dangerous pathogens, from salmonella to toxoplasmosis to the deadly parasite trichinosis, writes James McWilliams for the New York Times. "Free range is like piggy day care, a thoughtfully arranged system designed to meet the needs of consumers who despise industrial agriculture and adore the idea of wildness," the anti-locavore author argues.

Balancing humane animal treatment and consumer safety is tricky: "The natural dangers that motivated farmers to bring animals into tightly controlled settings in the first place haven’t gone away," McWilliams explains. Reverting to free-range practices is a choice, and "even if the texture conferred on pork by this choice does lead to improved tenderloin, the enhanced taste must be weighed against the increased health risks."