The primary objectives of the Meat Safety and Quality Research Unit are to reduce the risk of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of red meat, to respond to the research needs of the USDA action and regulatory agencies, to increase efficiency of lean meat production, and to improve eating quality of meat. Pre- and post-harvest food safety research addresses the microbial status of live animals and meat from farm to table using both molecular and standard microbiological techniques. Unique methods are developed and validated as necessary for sampling, isolating and identifying pathogenic and spoilage bacteria. Sources of pathogens and approaches for their control at various stages of livestock and meat production are determined in order to reduce the risk of pathogen contamination of meat, other food products, water, and the environment by meat animals. Approaches include determining mechanisms of pathogen infection, colonization, and shedding by meat animals, development and validation of specific and sensitive detection methodologies, and interventions for control of pathogens in meat products, meat animals and the production environment. Meat quality research is directed toward identification of areas of the genome that regulate carcass composition and meat quality, the development of methodologies to classify carcasses based on meat quality traits and lean meat yield, the effect of breed on carcass composition and meat quality, and the development of strategies to optimize meat quality, especially tenderness.