Hammy the Hamster Goes Organic

Posted by Ken

Does organic food really taste better?

At TheCooksDen, we decided to apply the scientific method to that important question. We brought in an unbiased test subject — one who has superior taste buds, is unaffected by marketing hype, and is unafraid to express her opinions publicly.

Meet Hammy the Hamster. Hammy was kind enough to participate in hours of rigorous testing in order to get to the bottom of this critical issue. Read on for the results — they just may surprise you.

Highlights

First off, a bit about our technique is in order. Hammy was asked to repeatedly choose between an organic food item and a conventional item of the same type. Click on this video to see documentation of several test trials.


Outtakes

Of course, Hammy was not always so cooperative. Like a well-trained athlete, sometimes she just wasn't up to her best. Below see video documentation of several trials where Hammy was not quite so interested in our scientific quest.


Results

When all was said and done, Hammy chose organic. In over sixty percent of the trials that resulted in a clear selection, Hammy opted for the organic item. Below is the summary of results, broken down by individual food item. Hammy was 'indifferent' frequently, choosing to groom herself, rest or run away entirely. Those trials are noted below as well.

Organic Conventional Indifferent
Banana 6 3 5
Walnut 3 5 3
Strawberry 5 2 4
Carrot 7 3 4
Broccoli 4 3 7
Cheese 6 2 3
Total 31 18 26

For five out of the six food types, Hammy preferred organic. She did, however, seem to have a preference for conventional walnuts over organic. This fascinating inconsistency deserves further investigation and will no doubt be the subject of follow-up research.

More Info and Music Credits

Of course, no hamsters were harmed during the filming of these movies. In fact, Hammy got a pretty good feast out of the deal.

Music for the videos was provided by Kevin MacLeod at Incompetech.com. If you're looking for music for your movie, I highly recommend his site.

Got some ideas on what Hammy should try out next? Maybe a convection oven or a high-end saute pan?

Drop us a line and let us know.

101 Responses

  1. Danielle Says:

    Hammy has a discriminating pallet. I’d chalk the indifference up to being full. She did eat her body length in broccoli. Only question is, did you wash the fruits and veggies before the test? The carrots I know came washed and peeled. I could believe her cute lil nose would be repulsed by pesticide smell. I could also believe that eventually the animal instinct to eat-like-it’s-your-last-meal would be strong enough to eat bug-spray veggies. This is the best animal video ever. Hammy should get an Oscar.

  2. Hamster Prefers Organic Food : EcoLocalizer Says:

    [...] She did, however, seem to have a preference for conventional walnuts over organic. Please visit http://www.thecooksden.com/hamster/ for more [...]

  3. CO Says:

    This proves nothing. If you run a simple test for significance (e.g., a chi-square test), you’ll get a result that shows the differences in Hammy’s choices are more likely due to him choosing randomly rather than preferring organic food.

  4. TuringTestFailure Says:

    @CO [sigh] We all took stats in college, thanks. Just try to enjoy….I thought it was cute.

  5. BagOfNothing.com » Bag of Randomness Says:

    [...] Hamster goes organic.  Link [...]

  6. Food Trials: Hamster Chooses Organic | Onelargeprawn Says:

    [...] the stats and full report at TheCooksDen | Image Credit: JesseBarker. Other PostsIf you like this post, try these:Best Photomicrographs from [...]

  7. Beth Says:

    Very cool idea, and well executed. Nice music. I also love how this was a “family” effort.

  8. Nick Says:

    Maybe she just went for whatever was on the left.

    A retest with random positioning should answer that.

  9. Organic Tastes Better: Proof Via Animal Testing « The Edibility Exam Says:

    [...] 4, 2009 in News No, not that kind of animal testing– the *cute* kind! At TheCooksDen, we decided to apply the scientific method to that important question. We brought in [...]

  10. Jen Says:

    Run each food test 100 times. I bet you get close to a 50/50 average. Cute hamster, though.

  11. Brandon Says:

    How do you control for the hamster preferring one area of the cage over the other? Did you swap the food into different areas every trial? Alternatively you can give him only 1 type of food for a certain time, record how much of it he eats. The next time window you feed him the alternative food type and compare how much of each he eats. If food tastes better he will eat more of it.

  12. Joe Buck Says:

    CO claims that this is an insignificant result, but he clearly didn’t do the math.

    For the 49 trials where the hamster had a preference, the expected number of wins for “organic”, assuming the null hypothesis, is 24.5, and the variance is 49/4 or 12.25, and the standard deviation is sqrt(12.25) or 3.5. We got 6.5 excess wins for organic, which is almost two standard deviations. So we’d certainly be in the 90% range of confidence that something real is being measured. And without the walnut discrepancy we’d be in the 99% region.

  13. Joe Buck Says:

    My math above is a hair off (dividing by N instead of N-1) but it doesn’t significantly affect the result.

  14. Hel Says:

    I echo what others have said, this was not sufficiently random. You need to at the very least swap which side is organic&conventional. For best data practices, you would do well to run the experiment the way Brandon suggests in comment #14, with the time periods being days. Feed a conventional food for several days (in case food change results in decreased appetite) then organic for several days. Repeat several times, analyze the results.
    Adorable hamster tho!

  15. Kalvie Says:

    Very nice.

    What was that cool funk music?

  16. Mary Sue Says:

    Dear all amateur armchair comment statisticians:

    Please rewatch the video and read for comprehension before you start blathering about randomization. The choices switched sides.

    Absolutely great idea, fabulous video!

  17. James Says:

    Ease up science nerds; it is a cooking blog not the National Institutes of Science. Just sit back and enjoy the silliness. The out-takes are best by the way.

    A cute and well done video guys and gals. Bravo!

  18. Hammy the Hamster Prefers Organic Foods « The Sky’s the Limit Says:

    [...] 4, 2009 · No Comments TheCooksDen.com applies the scientific method to the question, “Does organic food really taste better?” [...]

  19. @Mary Sue Says:

    Choices never switched sides.
    Organic was always on Hammy’s left.

    Both hamsters I had 15+ years ago, both had a preference for a specific side of their body. When let loose to explore/play in a closed-off (hamster-proofed room) they always follow along the edge of the wall against one side of their body. If I picked them up and turned them around, they’d stop sniff and turn around again to have the wall on their preferred side.
    (Granted my hamsters are not indicative of the whole, but neither is this test. :-p )

    Additionally the outtakes show them coaxing Hammy with the organic, which could also introduce a bias (showing the food, and then where it’s located in the ‘pen’).

    Scientific or conclusive? Not really.
    But a cute entertaining vid? Of course!

  20. admin Says:

    @Kalvie – that’s “Peppy Pepe” from Kevin MacLeod’s Incompetech.com

    – ken

  21. Hammy the Hamster Has the Best Day Ever! | CulturePopped Says:

    [...] out the TheCooksDen article about the test for more information and some Hammy outtakes: http://www.thecooksden.com/hamster/SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “Hammy the Hamster Has the Best Day Ever!”, url: [...]

  22. Nick Says:

    James:

    It’s being offered as a conclusion to an experiment. Sounds like they’re at least trying to be scientific, and some people are offering advice to improve their method to remove potential biases.

    The fact that it’s cute doesn’t really come into it.

  23. D. Says:

    Yes, this is a neat idea. But it is poorly executed. As Mary Sue and Nick suggest, by always putting the organic in the same position relative to the conventional, you may have conditioned the subject over time to select the food on its left. Randomly arrange the organic one and then redo the experiment. Also, run a control (where both offerings are organic and where both are conventional). Also repeat with another hamster (or squid, or duck or badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger badger ;) ).

  24. Sara Says:

    Interesting experiment. Not as comprehensive as it could be but still interesting.

    You just need a few more hamsters and a grant :)

  25. teufelsdroch Says:

    @CO

    not only is this pretentious, it’s also wrong. ANOVA gives a probability of 1.5% for this being insignificant. The hampster likes organic!

  26. James Says:

    Some of you really fail to grasp the concept of “humor” The claim made that this is a ‘scientific” study is made tongue-in-cheek. That is the entire set up of the gag. The table offered to support the conclusion is part of the joke. And the final conclusion is the pay off. Hello!! Why would any rational human being care about the preference of someone’s pet hamster? The entire “experiment” is bogus from the very start–that’s the joke.

  27. Emily Says:

    This was so incredibly cute… thanks for the great video!

  28. Lor Says:

    I think more trials would be necessary ( a larger sample size) to determine if there is actually a preference. You know, multiple hamsters, 20+ choices over multiple days, of course.

    Other than that, ADORABLE~!

  29. Mangez bio, c’est un hamster qui vous le dit | Presse-Citron Says:

    [...] A moins que l’animal soit gaucher, évidemment. Les explications ici. [...]

  30. Dan Says:

    This has experiment has already been done a little more rigorously but with rats. They preferentially selected organic wheat biscuits over the non-organic type.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/03/dining/03curi.html?_r=1

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/114228894/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

  31. kd Says:

    Umm, hello fellow statisticians. whoever did the ANOVA is wrong, this data doesn’t look at the statistical significance of the difference between means, so that result is irellevant.

    Although the data is presented like a contingency table, I don’t think that the problem warrants a Chi2 test either

    I think that Joe Buck’s solution looks the most correct, and I think he’s done the right maths to evaluate the binomial distribution properly.

    The only thing is that I’m not sure what the “no preference” data is showing and its importance.

  32. kd Says:

    Also you’d need to do it double blind with a counterbalanced design for which side of the hamster the each food goes on

  33. Hammy Hamster Goes Gaga for Organic | The Essentia Blog Says:

    [...] usually very serious, but this was just too hilarious to resist.  Over at a blog called “The Cook’s Den”, the author has chosen to [...]

  34. Margaret Clarke Says:

    Perhaps the organic walnuts were a teeny bit stale? I have had trouble with that.

  35. Another nerd Says:

    You’d also need to increase the n of experimental animals. Hammy’s preference may or may not be similar to other hamsters.

    And like kd said, ANOVA? WTF?

  36. dt Says:

    The outtakes reveal that you repeatedly lured the hamster in the direction of the organic item. great jorb!

  37. Žiurk?nas renkasi organik? : nežinau.lt Says:

    [...] auginto maisto, herojumi. Nors testo rezultat? negalima laikyti vienareikšmiais, gyv?n?lis du kartus iš trij? rinkosi ekologišk? produkt?. Ar tai k? nors mums sako? (The [...]

  38. Lamar Barnes IV Says:

    You can have only one of two opinions on this, “Even a hamster knows the difference!” or “Maybe the hamsters arent as stupid as human beings”

  39. Pages tagged "hamster" Says:

    [...] bookmarks tagged hamster Hammy the Hamster Goes Organic saved by 5 others     SingerINtheStudio12 bookmarked on 03/05/09 | [...]

  40. Nick Says:

    Clearly, she prefers food on her left (the viewers right). That’s all.

  41. Patrick Says:

    This experiment is flawed.
    Just by observing the hamster, you are affecting the result.
    Have you no concept of quantum mechanics?
    Haven’t you heard about Schrödinger’s Cat?
    (cute hamster though).

  42. DancingSamurai.ca | Organic food - does it taste better? Says:

    [...] is an awesome science experiment – I wish I had done it in high school (oh wait, the organic food craze hadn’t started yet – I [...]

  43. Hamster Prefers Organic Food | Eco Friendly Mag Says:

    [...] she did, however, seem to have a preference for conventional walnuts over organic. Please visit http://www.thecooksden.com/hamster/ for more [...]

  44. R Says:

    Clearly there is a point of contention as to whether this is either funny or scientifically/statistically sound. I think it’s neither, which leaves it being cute. That could have been done without presenting the results that seem to be confusing the purpose of the exercise.

  45. I prodotti biologici sono più buoni? Chiedetelo al vostro criceto - Noantri Says:

    [...] “E’ proprio vero che gli alimenti biologici hanno un sapore migliore? Noi di TheCooksDen abbiamo deciso di condurre una ricerca scientifica per trovare una risposta ad una domanda tanto [...]

  46. Suivez les indications des animaux, mangez Bio! | Mobile - HighTech Says:

    [...] vous voulez plus d’explications, vous pouvez consulter l’article ici. Sources var td_id = “1542500″; var td_method = “automatic”; var td_format = “ctext_468x60″; var [...]

  47. Charlie Bit My Finger Says:

    I find Hamsters absolutely delicious and I do not care if they have been fed organic food or elephant dung they are still delicious! 4 or 5 make a great meal and it is a much better transfer of fuel to eat hamster meat than say Beef.
    Come on now who else out there loves to nibble those crispy little feet after a good fry up?

  48. geck0man Says:

    After watching the video, I would have to say that no conclusion could be made at this time. It seems that Hammy just seemed to go towards whatever was closer after her initial step of curiosity. If she really preferred organic she would have been even more consistent, with less hits to the conventional products. Also, if you factor in the “indifference”, she chose organic on 40% of the time.

    Cute hamster. =)

  49. Lamar Barnes IV Says:

    Why walnut exception? A recent biological development in the crop trees(2003), could make walnuts more pesticide resistant.
    http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/files/61146.PDF

  50. miriland » Blog Archive » It’s hamster time! Says:

    [...] Hammy the Hamster Goes Organic Does organic food really taste better? [...]

  51. pete Says:

    He looked pretty hungry in a couple of them.

    Was this clip meant to draw people devoid of personality out of the woodwork?

    I think you have a new experiment to pursue.

  52. DaveMill Says:

    I choose to believe that one hamster sometimes going to his left to choose organic food proves that organic food is better. Nothing you can do to convince me otherwise. Chi square that!

  53. B Says:

    A 2-sample t test (using frequency of selection of organic/conventional) indeed shows that Hammie chose organic more often than conventional, at a 95% confidence interval (in this unrandomized sample). An ANOVA using these freqs could show whether there was an effect of fruit type.

    I think we can be confident that the preference was influenced by the news on the HNN that pesticides build up in cheek pouches and stunt burrowing ability.

  54. Even the Hamster Prefers Certified Organic Produce | Green Diva Mom Says:

    [...] results and methodology for the hamster experiment are detailed here.  As commenters to the blog entry note, there is room for improvement in the experiment design, [...]

  55. So Good Blog/News Round-Up 3/9/09 | So Good Says:

    [...] Hammy the Hamster Goes Organic. [...]

  56. hamster lover Says:

    that is one adorable hamster!!!!!

  57. purplepenguin Says:

    I thought this was very cute. Go organic!!! But isn’t Hammy a rat not a hamster?

  58. Sarah :) Says:

    yes yes we organic people…and animals…are going to take over the world someday…*high fives Hammy*

  59. Charlie Bit my Finger Says:

    So it would seem you all are so highbrow as to not be willing to try a tasty Hamster sandwich with some good chips on the side. Purple Penguin makes a good point as Rats are very tasty as well.
    Now as for all this fuss about organics and carbon foot prints I am morally opposed to just eating stuff that cannot run away or fight back, not sporting wouldn’t you agree.
    Now as for excellent eating that no one will object to I suggest we eat attorneys. They are just as plentiful as rats and you are much less likely to develop close attachments to them. Sorry for you Brits I should say solicitors and barristers, no matter all quite good on the plate after a little trimming and cooking.

  60. Hammy the Organic Hamster « The Passionate Librarian - Babette Reeves Says:

    [...] Internet, Parenting, Videos, Websites No, this is not the title of a children’s book. Hammy is for real and part of an [...]

  61. LB Says:

    Hammy’s preference for the food on his left is just another example of of the left leaning bias in the media. Perhaps a more fair test would be to have guinea pigs included in the test, as everyone knows they tend to be more conservative.

  62. Adam weston Says:

    the videos are very funny

  63. @ Highbrow Says:

    No, Hammy is not a rat, unless its tail’s been removed

  64. Wally the Walrus Says:

    While this is certainly a cute video, the first sentence, saying this is a scientific process to determine which tastes better, does not live up to the hype, especially when you look at the outtakes video.

    Cute? Yes. Scientific? No. Proves organic tastes better? No.

  65. Junk Science Says:

    This is to small to confirm the conclusion. The data suggest the his choices are random.

    How about place the items in random order, instead of always having conventional on the hampster’s left and organic on the right.

    Maybe he’s a lefty.

  66. Kay Says:

    @pete re: people devoid of personality-
    you,my good man, are correct.

  67. lililili Says:

    awwwww hammy is so cute ;)
    i used to have a hamster and i nicknamed him hammy!
    hammy reminds me of my old hamster
    i think its so cute when he stuffs the food in his cheeks!!!

  68. Tomato Addict Says:

    First, I applaud this experiment. Flaws and all, this is great fun, and any discussion taking it seriously or impprove the experiment serves to illustrate what is involved in the scientific method. Bravo!

    Second, if we must take it seriously, then we ought to do it right: I strongly disagree with the statistical comparisons presented so far. A t-test or ANOVA applied here is wrong. This is categorical data and there is no a priori reason to disregard the indifferent results. In a Chi-square test of homogeneity with a null hypothesis of equal proportion of responses (25 each; conventional, organic, indifferent) the exact p-value is 0.1890. Even if we exclude the indifferent responses, the p-value is still 0.0854. Neither of these meet the typical standard for statistical significance (p<0.05). This is not conclusive evidence that Hammy’s choices are anything other than random.

  69. Tomato Addict Says:

    Darnit. Strike “impprove”, insert “suggesting how to improve”. Linked!

  70. jim Says:

    organic foods really do not taste any better than store bought fresh foods. they just cost more.

  71. Finally, An Answer to the Eternal Question: Will a Hamster Eat Organic or Conventional Food? - Young & Hungry - Washington City Paper Says:

    [...] spared no expense in putting together this rigorous experiment in which a hamster (Hammy, truly adorable for a rodent) is placed in a confined space, where he [...]

  72. Squickdillyicous Says:

    I would think the test was quite legit, since both choices were put at equal distances from Hammy, yet she got her nose in both. I would think it be far more productive next time to spread out the videotaping over several days and give her less a buffet. Even to be Devils Advocate by feeding her some conventional feed seed first, then try the veggies, fruits & nuts as the dessert.

  73. Tomato Addict Says:

    @Squickdillyicious:
    The point of randomizing is that there could be other factors interfering with the result. For instance, maybe Hammy is in the habit of going to the left to find food, and here the organic product is always on the left. If the positions were randomized, this experiment could differentiate between “go left” and “go organic”.

  74. Bob Says:

    I’ll have what the hamster is having, please.

  75. Hunter Says:

    Yeah….. I watched the outtakes and when the tester wanted the hamster to move quicker he would pick up the ORGANIC vegie and wave it in front of the hamster, or wave a brocoli leaf in front of the hamster and trail it back to the ORGANIC side.
    I think it’s a sham to make us spend more money (damn organic hippies, there is no scientific evidence that EPA approved levels of pesticides are harmful)

  76. ljjkl Says:

    soo cute

  77. Tomato Addict Says:

    >… here the organic product is always on the left.

    On Hammy’s left, that is. :-)

  78. Go Green » WWHHE? Says:

    [...] For a little humor in your day, watch this YouTube video of a hamster choosing between organic and conventional food. [...]

  79. Chipmunk Says:

    This is a BRILLIANT idea! I’m a huge fan.

  80. Meg Says:

    everyone seems to be saying the same thing: Hammy prefers the left & they should swap things around a bit more. I think they should do a few more tests with more hamsters & move the options around, also, no prompting towards the organic side.
    Hammy is CUTE.

  81. Paula Says:

    Thank you for the education in organic foods. I really love the video of Hammy. This was awsome. I will be sending this page to many of my friends. Thanks.

  82. HamsterDude Says:

    To all the people saying that the food was always on the left: hamsters don’t know left from right, so that doesn’t matter.

  83. ixso blog » Hammy, der Food-Tester Says:

    [...] Der ganze Test sowie das Ergebnis sind zu sehen unter: http://www.thecooksden.com/hamster/ [...]

  84. Suburbanites Says:

    While I’d agree it’s a really cute video — hey, any rodent set to music will always have some sort of cuteness factor — the out-takes revealed a couple of things that seemed pretty obvious even casually. First, was that the test subject wasn’t always hungry, and the tester seemed to consistently coax the subject toward food. Secondly, the choice of out-takes showed artificial guidance toward the organic versus conventional item.

    And while a hamster may not know right from left, they can be conditioned to know a location for a specific food item,so it’s possible that the subject could have had previous conditioning to go to a position after being placed down, and just could gravitate there, and that could have upset the test controls.

    While it’s cute and I understand there is a taste difference, I’m just not viewing this as other than entertaining.

  85. Elle Says:

    I loved Hammy–what a cutie!! But seriously, I enjoyed the outtakes as much as the test video…

    I will admit, we use organic ginger and garlic, and I swear I taste a difference in my stir fry…

  86. The Trouble With Hammy :: NPR INTERN EDITION Says:

    [...] video is adorable. If you didn’t catch it on YouTube’s featured videos, watch it [...]

  87. Maggie Says:

    Cute<3 A cutie patootie.

  88. Caligula Says:

    @HamsterDude: “To all the people saying that the food was always on the left: hamsters don’t know left from right, so that doesn’t matter.”

    Of course it matters; don’t be ridiculous.

  89. Passante Says:

    Some of you people take yourselves way too seriously. Get a life, lighten up, and check your dictionaries for the following:

    Sense of humor/humour
    Tongue in cheek
    satire
    fun

  90. Hammy Hamster Goes Organic! | Stanberry Says:

    [...] TheCooksDen decided to apply the scientific method to that important question. They brought in an unbiased test subject — one who has superior taste buds, is unaffected by marketing hype, and is unafraid to express her opinions publicly. [...]

  91. Hamster Prefers Organic Veggies - Amazing Data Says:

    [...] Study Link & Video Link Via Boing Boing [...]

  92. Easy statistics for AdWords A/B testing and hamsters Says:

    [...] instead to groom himself or sleep. (For the “outtakes” video and more statistics, see Hammy’s Homepage.) If Hammy doesn’t pick a vegetable during a particular trial run, it doesn’t mean [...]

  93. Hammy Hamster Goes Organic! | Stanberry Says:

    [...] CooksDen decided to apply the scientific method to that important question. They brought in an unbiased test subject — one who has superior taste buds, is unaffected by marketing hype, and is unafraid to express her opinions publicly. [...]

  94. Cute Proof that Organic Food Tastes Better | Wayang Times ~ Funny and Entertaining Asian Picture-Video Collection Says:

    [...] We have heard of so many different arguments about why organic food tastes better. Now there is actually real proof, from non other than our own hamster-next-door, Hammy: [...]

  95. Ron Rash Says:

    Hello,

    Congratulations on a wonderful video. Hammy is a real star.

    I shared the link in my newsletter with about 600 industry execs in the organic and natural food trade, and received some very nice comments back about Hammy.

    Stay real, stay organic.

  96. Paula Says:

    I would like to suggest that some foods represent the difference more than others. For example: organic eggs are significantly different than conventional in both looks and taste. My favorite, popcorn, also is very different. Not sure I could tell the difference between brocoli’s though.

  97. tobesograteful Says:

    Hammy no like broccoli. Love the soundtrack.

  98. Meg Says:

    I think you should experiment with Organic vs Conventional peanut butter. It’s obvious Hammy has enjoyed being the food editor . . . he looks like a huge ham hock!

  99. Gail Says:

    I just Tweeted “This hamster #organic video is the funniest statistical test you are like to ever see – and the comments are priceless.”

    You are my kind of blogger. :-) Might I interest you in joining our CommentLuv community?

  100. Walt Says:

    I noticed that that Hammy was the most “indifferent” to broccoli. As am I :) Smart girl!

  101. Priscilla Says:

    I would be interested in seeing if she had a preference for GMO or non-GMO!