Contamination Rates and Antimicrobial Resistance in Bacteria Isolated from “Grass-Fed” Labeled Beef Products

Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA.
Foodborne Pathogens and Disease (Impact Factor: 1.91). 11/2010; 7(11):1331-6. DOI: 10.1089/fpd.2010.0562
Source: PubMed


Grass-fed and organic beef products make up a growing share of the beef market in the United States. While processing, animal handling, and farm management play large roles in determining the safety of final beef products, grass-fed beef products are often marketed as safer alternatives to grain-finished beef products based on the potential effects of all-forage diets on host microbiota. We conducted a series of experiments examining bacterial contamination rates in 50 beef products labeled as "grass-fed" versus 50 conventionally raised retail beef products. Coliform concentrations did not differ between conventional and grass-fed beef (conventional: 2.6 log(10) CFU/mL rinsate; grass-fed: 2.7 log(10) CFU/mL rinsate). The percentages of Escherichia coli positive samples did not differ between the two groups (44% vs. 44%). Enterococcus spp. were frequently isolated from both grass-fed beef products (44%) and conventional beef products (62%; p = 0.07). No Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7 isolates were recovered from any of the meat samples. Enterococcus spp. isolates from conventional beef were more frequently resistant to daptomycin and linezolid (p < 0.05). Resistance to some antimicrobials (e.g., chloramphenicol, erythromycin, flavomycin, penicillin, and tetracyline) was high in Enterococcus spp. isolated from both conventional and grass-fed beef. There were no differences in the percentages of antimicrobial resistant E. coli isolates between the two groups. Taken together, these data indicate that there are no clear food safety advantages to grass-fed beef products over conventional beef products.

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