Hammy prefers organic food – should we trust Hammy?March 11, 2009
There is a cute video on YouTube of Hammy the Hamster choosing between conventional and organic foods – – there is also a video of outtakes – s/he wasn’t always cooperative. The videos were created by cooksden.com where you can see both videos and read a bit about the project. [By the way, I learned about Hammy first on a blog here on wordpress, although allusions to it appear to be all over the web.]
Is Hammy’s choice the definitive word on conventional vs. organic? yep.
O.k., nope. As science (which it doesn’t seriously claim to be), this isn’t really so hot. Ideally there would be more than one hamster in the study; maybe Hammy is an odd duck in the hamster world. A sample of hamsters, ideally randomly chosen from a large general group of hamsters, would be much better. And it sure looks as if organic was always placed on our right (Hammy’s left), perhaps Hammy just prefers the food on the left regardless of it’s type. An improvement would be to have organic on one side half the time and on the other side the rest. Another issue is the time frame. A long period of taste testing foods is a) going to wear out the hamsters so they’ll be less cooperative, and b) fill up the hamsters so they won’t want to eat later in the session. In addition, you have to wonder about food carryover effects. Does broccoli taste as good after a walnut as it does after a carrot? So the research design just got much more complicated, now involving multiple testing sessions and varying the food order for different animals or for different sessions. So the science needs some work – could make a pretty good student project though.
How about the results? As someone who prefers organic, I’d like to say they are dead-on. But frankly, we can’t tell from one nonscientific study. However, it does generate some testable hypotheses about organic and nonorganic foods and hamster preferences.
And, it’s a dang cute video. Makes me want to get a hamster. My cats would like me to get a hamster too – preferably an organic one.