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This Type of Meat Is More Likely to Have Dangerous Bacteria, New Study Says

New research may give you an extra push to buy organic.

Not sure whether or not to spring for the organic meat at your supermarket? It can be a tough call. As far as nutrients go, the meat will pretty much off there same vitamins and minerals as its conventional counterpart, though it may spare you from eating harmful hormones and antibiotics. However, new research may give you extra incentive to buy organic meat. As it turns out, organic meat is significantly less likely to contain harmful bacteria that could put you at risk for foodborne illnesses.

A new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, finds that non-organic meat is more likely to contain multidrug-resistant organisms that can leave meat-eaters at risk for serious health issues.

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"Multidrug-resistant organisms are germs that can cause infections which are more difficult for physicians to treat with antibiotics," Gabriel K. Innes, VMD, PhD, the study's first author, told Eat This, Not That! In an interview. "This can lead to longer healthcare stays, higher incurred costs, and more deaths."

meat, meatpacking

The study looked at data on bacterial contaminations for four kinds of meat—chicken breast, pork chop, ground beef, and ground turkey—between the years 2012 and 2017, totaling about 40,000 samples. Researchers looked at how the meat was both produced (what animals were raised, including what they ate) and processed (packaged in a facility) to better understand the connection between meat and contamination.

What did they find? Some 4% of the samples produced and processed in non-organic facilities were contaminated with pathogens that cause foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella. Meanwhile, less than 1% of organically produced meat samples that were processed in "split" processing facilities (handling both organic and conventional meat) were contaminated. However, animals that are raised on farms that follow organic practices and then taken to facilities at the end of their life that exclusively process organic meat are the safest to consume.

In fact, the study even revealed that among conventionally-produced meats, those that were also processed at facilities that exclusively handled conventional meats were contaminated with bacteria one-third of the time. On the other hand, conventional meats handled at split facilities were contaminated with bacteria one-quarter of the time.

"How we raise and process our food animals matters, not only for the health of the animal but for [you] as well," said Innes.

If you can afford to spend the extra money on organic meat, it's probably a good idea. For more insight on how to steer clear of pathogenic bacteria in food, be sure to check out these 17 Foods Most Likely to Give You Food Poisoning.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara