Some people think paying extra for organic meat is worth it. A recent study now shows that it may really be worth it, especially when it comes to meat being contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria.
If you buy meat for your family, the possibility of foodborne illness is an important consideration. Foodborne illnesses sickens tens of millions in the US each year. Moreover, drug-resistant germs can make it more complicated to treat these illnesses.
Less Bacteria in Organic Meats
A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that organic-certified meats were 56 percent less likely to be contaminated with multidrug-resistant bacteria, compared to conventionally processed meats.
The researchers looked at data from meat testing in a database called the U.S. National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS). NARMS was developed in 1996 by the US government to track antibiotic resistance in bacteria isolated from retail meats, farmed animals, and patients with foodborne illness.
To be called organic meat, the USDA requires the animals can never have been administered antibiotics or hormones. Also the feed they eat also have to be 100 percent organic.
In the study, data from randomly sampled chicken breast, ground beef, ground turkey, and pork were analyzed for any contamination and for contamination by multidrug-resistant organisms.
Of the 39,348 meat samples, 1,422 were found to be contaminated with at least one multidrug-resistant organism. Four percent of the conventionally processed meat were contaminated, versus less than one percent of the organic meat.
Organic Meat Processing is Cleaner
Another finding was that facilities that only processed conventional meat had contamination about one-third of the time. Facilities that processed conventional and organic meats had contamination about one-quarter of the time. This is most likely due to the equipment have to be disinfected between processing conventional and organic meats, said the researchers.
The study was published in the May 2021 edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Contamination of meat by drug-resistant bacteria is concerning, because this can make treating forborne illness more complicated and costly, and the illness may even be deadly.
Organic Meat is Worth the Extra Cost
The takeaway from this study is that organic meat is less likely to be contaminated by bacteria compared to non-orgnanic, conventionally-processed meat. It seems how the animals are raised and fed do make a difference.
Obviously, the food safety of our family is highly important. We care what our children’s health and what they eat. The finding that organic meat is much less likely to be contaminated by bacteria can surely make a parent consider spending more to buy organic meat. That extra cost is worth it, compared to the potential cost of treating potentially-deadly foodborne illnesses.