October 24, 2021

Study Looks at Campylobacter and Salmonella in Pasture-Raised Broilers

Like broiler chicken from large-scale producers, pasture-raised broiler chickens from small-scale producers are often contaminated with Salmonella or Campylobacter, according to a new study published in the journal Food Control.  Researchers decided to look at contamination levels in pasture-raised chicken from small-scale producers because of increased consumer interest.

ChickenThe research team, which included Lisa Trimble, Walid Alali, Kristen Gibson, Steven Ricke, Philip Crandall, Divya Jaroni and Mark Berrang, evaluated contamination levels on broilers processed in three ways: in on-farm facilities, in small, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) facilities and in mobile processing units. They found Campylobacter on carcasses processed by all three methods. The carcasses processed in the mobile units had the highest levels of Campylobacter but no Salmonella. The carcasses processed on farm had the highest levels of Salmonella and those processed at the small USDA facility had much lower levels of Salmonella. The researchers concluded that more research is needed to determine other factors that could affect contamination in small-scale processing.

It is not uncommon to find Campylobacter or Salmonella on raw chicken; in fact, Consumers Union has found pathogens on 97% of the chicken breasts they tested. The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) retail meat surveillance program, a collaboration among the U.S. Food and Drug Association Center for Veterinary Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and participating state public health laboratories, monitors antimicrobial resistance in Salmonella, Campylobacter, Enterococcus, and Escherichia coli isolated from raw unprocessed retail meats. Between 2002 and 2011, NARMS isolated Salmonella from 1503 of 11417, or 13 percent, of retail chicken samples.

Salmonella contamination is the cause of an ongoing multi-state outbreak associated with chicken produced by large scale operator Foster Farms. Over the last nine months 128 people in 13 states have been sickened by Salmonella from Foster Farms chicken. At least 32 people have been hospitalized just in that outbreak.

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