"Free-Range" ChickenNo Guarantee
It's Free of Salmonella By
September 20, 2004
There is no discernible difference in Salmonella levels
between free-range, organically produced poultry and conventionally produced
birds, an Agricultural Research Service
scientist has found.
ARS microbiologist J. Stan Bailey of the
Poultry Microbiological Safety
Research Unit at the Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Ga.,
examined 110 processed free-range chickens from three organic producers and
found that about 25 percent of the chickens tested positive for
Salmonella. Chickens raised conventionally had about the same levels.
Thus, the decision to purchase free-range chickens shouldn't be
based on the belief that such a chicken is microbiologically superior,
according to Bailey.
But that shouldn't deter people from buying free-range chicken
if they prefer it for other reasons, according to Bailey, who presented his
findings recently at the annual meeting of the
American Chemical Society, in
"Free-range" chickenswhich are free to roam outside cages
or other confined areasmake up less than 1 percent of the billions of
chickens produced in the United States each year. Organic growers often raise
their chickens under free-range conditions.
Salmonella, intestinal bacteria that can cause diarrhea,
fever and abdominal cramps, are commonly transmitted by undercooked or uncooked
foods. According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, about 40,000 cases of Salmonella infection
are reported in the United States each year. However, many milder cases are not
diagnosed or reported, so the actual number of infections may be up to 30 times
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.