The article was published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases and summarized in several other publications. It said growing demand for free-range or organically produced meat—especially pork and chicken—will probably increase the prevalence of the parasite toxoplasma gondii, or T. gondii, in humans.
Hardly a household name, T. gondii is nonetheless the second-leading cause of food-borne illness deaths in the United States. It is spread through the feces of infected animals. Most at risk are pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.Pigs or chickens raised in “animal friendly” environments have greater access to grass, soil, feed and water that may be contaminated with T. gondii. The journal article concluded the parasite is anywhere from 17 percent to 100 percent more likely to be found in free-range chickens, compared with chickens raised indoors. Other research has found that organically raised pigs test positive for T. gondii more often than conventionally raised pigs.