Of Pigs and Shills
So - last Friday this prize of a guy wrote this Op-Ed for the New York Times. I apologize if you can't open that last link - in case you can't I will state his basic argument. Basically, his point is that buying pork from a local farmer who raises his animals humanely and doesn't pump them full of hormones and drugs WILL KILL YOU. He quotes a study that says that the incidence of salmonella is higher in free-range pigs than in "confined" (i.e., factory-farmed) ones. Now, the percentages he quotes are 54% vs. 36%, which seems like sort of a silly comparison to get all bent out of shape about. I mean, I'm going to get freaked out about half, but not about a third? And he reports in dread tones that 2 out of the 600 free-range pigs examined had trichinosis. TWO!!! And that if you were to eat the meat from these animals without cooking it, you could DIE!!!!
Mr. McWilliams then goes on to explain that because of this report, "foodies" should rethink their naive notion that when they're buying free-range they're getting the meat of wild animals, that free-range pork is cultivated as well. A point which I'm sure "foodies" everywhere are horrified to discover, because we all thought they were skipping around with unicorns in a primeval forest somewhere. And he ends by saying, basically, eat the factory-farmed stuff or don't eat pork at all, because pork grown locally, humanely and transparently WILL KILL YOU.
Well, guess what? This Editor's note has now been appended to the piece:
"An Op-Ed article last Friday, about pork, neglected to disclose the source of the financing for a study finding that free-range pigs were more likely than confined pigs to test positive for exposure to certain pathogens. The study was financed by the National Pork Board."
So fucking brilliant. OF COURSE it was.
Now, I understand the NYT's desire to get contrarian opinions into their paper. They once hired me to write a piece dissing on green markets (and it brought me a galaxy of fun, I'm here to tell ya.) But there's a difference. I wrote about some of the underlying class issues involved in shopping at green markets, and about a certain brand of smugness certain foodies exude when extolling perfect peaches. I did not quote a study by Del Monte saying that fresh locally grown fruit is POISON.
McWilliams is a shill, sure, and possibly evil - though he did write this book on pest control and maybe just has Asperger's or something. But The New York Times is who really deserves blame here. To publish something so deeply riddled with errors (McWilliams talks about 500 pound pigs, which is about twice as large as the average mature Berkshire pig), so damaging to a movement dedicated to humane farming, healthful food, and environmental responsibility - a movement that deserves, if not uncritical support, at least careful and respectful consideration - and so unthinkingly supportive of corporate farming, is deeply irresponsible.
The editor's note don't cut it, NYT....