3 Reasons Wood Cutting Boards Are Superior

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1.  Wood cutting boards KILL bacteria*

The problem is that while it may seem like plastic is non-porous and can't absorb liquids, with use the surface becomes knife-scarred. This rough surface is exceptionally difficult to clean, even with bleach or running through the dishwasher. Wood, by contrast, shows the ability to halt the growth of and kill bacteria applied to its surface. Both new and used wooden cutting boards maintain this ability equally well.

Wood Versus Salmonella, Listeria and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli

In a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin (also by Dr. Cliver), they tested bacteria known to produce food poisoning – Salmonella, Listeria and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli. These bacteria were placed on cutting boards made from seven different species of trees and four types of plastic. All the wooden boards consistently outperformed the plastic.

The scientists found that three minutes after contaminating a board that 99.9 percent of the bacteria on wooden boards had died, while none of the bacteria died on plastic. Bacterial numbers actually increased on plastic cutting boards held overnight at room temperature, but the scientists could not recover any bacteria from wooden boards treated the same way.

Basically, wood cutting boards kill bacteria.  

Wood binds up water, which bacteria needs to grow. Wood also contains antimicrobial compounds. (Given that many other plants can be used as natural antibiotics, this is not entirely surprising.)  Old or new, wood cutting boards add an extra line of defense to your kitchen. Bamboo may have similar properties, but the only test data I was able to find about antimicrobial properties of bamboo focused on bamboo cloth. Read Bamboo – is it Antimicrobial?

The study “Survival of bacteria on wood and plastic particles: Dependence on wood species and environmental conditions” by Annett Milling, Rolf Kehr, Alfred Wulf and Kornelia Smalla compared bacteria growth (E. coli andE. faecium) in seven types sawdust and plastic (polyethylene chips). They found that the sawdust reduced the bacteria count, with pine and oak performing the best.  From the abstract: “The presented study shows that pine and oak exhibit substantially better hygienic performance than plastic and indicates an antibacterial effect caused by a combination of the hygroscopic properties of wood and the effect of wood extractives.”

They also discuss earlier studies, including one by Koch et al in 2002 comparing bacterial survival (Bacillus subtilis and Pseudomonas fluorescens) on wood, plastic and stainless steel, noting. “A remarkably great difference in the survival of the bacteria on the surface of the samples was observed between wooden samples and plastic and steel. Oak showed the highest decrease rate in bacterial titre, followed by beech and ash. Bacteria survived longest on plastic followed by stainless steel.”

2.  Wood is completely biodegradable and renewable

Oil based plastic cutting boards can take on average 450 years to breakdown. Additionally, wood is a natural, renewable resource that with proper management can be harvested indefinitely.

3.  Wood protects your knives and will not dull them like ceramic, stone or glass

The orientation of the wood in an End Grain cutting board allows the knife blade to glide between the fibers. This allows the cutting edge to remain sharper longer. With ceramic, stone or glass cutting boards your knife comes in direct contact with an unforgiving surface, causing it to dull, chip, etc. See picture below for example.

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*source -http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/11/wood-or-plastic-cutting-board_n_6133318.html (edited for clarity)