Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Meat Safety and Quality » Research » Research Project #440930

Research Project: Holistic Tactics to Advance the Microbiological Safety and Quality of the Red Meat Continuum

Location: Meat Safety and Quality

Project Number: 3040-42000-021-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 3, 2021
End Date: Aug 2, 2026

Objective 1: Identify pre- and post-harvest interventions that reduce foodborne pathogen prevalence and levels in the animal, on carcasses, or in meat products. Sub-objective 1.A: Identify pre-harvest interventions that impact the concentrations of pathogens colonizing animals and present in feed lot pens and barns. Sub-objective 1.B: Identify tactics to overcome sanitizer resistance shown by stress resistant (and antimicrobial resistant) bacteria present in niches. Sub-objective 1.C: Identify post-harvest interventions that are environmentally friendly and conserve natural resources. Objective 2: Advance red meat sampling and detection technologies to more accurately identify microbial contaminates with greater sensitivity. Sub-objective 2.A: Validate and implement new sampling technologies for foodborne pathogens associated with red meat. Sub-objective 2.B: Identify improved detections technologies for foodborne pathogens associated with red meat. Sub-objective 2.C: Characterization of bacterial biofilms contributing to product contamination at meat processing plants. Objective 3: Examine pre-harvest and post-harvest environmental factors that cause microbiological populations (foodborne pathogens, antimicrobial resistant bacteria, and spoilage bacteria) to fluctuate and identify candidate mitigation tactics. Sub-objective 3.A: Determine effects of season and management practices on occurrence of foodborne pathogens associated with meat animal production. Sub-objective 3.B: Determine the microbiomes associated with spoilage of case-ready meat products and the impact of trim applied interventions that may improve shelf life through changes to the community profiles.

Livestock and their surroundings are sources of microbial contaminants that threaten the safety of meat across the continuum of production. Production and processing practices influence the emergence and persistence of pathogens and spoilage organisms as well as the transmission of stress or antimicrobial resistance traits among various bacterial populations. This project addresses microbiological contaminants that occur across the meat production continuum. Objective 1 identifies pre- and post- harvest interventions directed at pathogens through experiments examining the effects of feed lot surface treatments and the use of slatted floor barns; examines the persistence of stress resistant E. coli in processing; appraises the efficacy as antimicrobial interventions of high pressure processing (HPP) and cold atmospheric plasma (CAP) with organic acids; and establishes methods to control Clostridium blown pack spoilage. Objective 2 focuses on improving sampling and detection of microbial contaminates by extending the use of a mobile sampling device for beef trim, and the manual (MSD) and continuous (CSD) sampling devices in pork processing; detecting Salmonella with a diagnostic (Dx) bacteriophage, and detecting Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC) via virulence factors. Further, Objective 2 determines how the community structure of biofilms protect and promote the transfer of contaminants throughout the processing plant. Objective 3 examines pre- and post-harvest factors that have an effect on microbiological populations with the goal of identifying candidate mitigation tactics. These experiments examine seasonal effects on E. coli O157:H7; feedlot management practices on Salmonella in lymph nodes; and the use of antimicrobials (AMR) on Salmonella in cattle. Post-harvest, Objective 3 aims to identify populations of bacteria in vacuum packaged and modified atmosphere packaged (MAP) ground meat leading to shortened shelf life and identify treatments applied before grinding that can alleviate this problem. Outcomes from the research will provide improved methods to monitor, detect, and mitigate pathogens on farm and in processing facilities. Further, the developments will be relevant, environmentally friendly, cost effective, and implementable without impeding current processes.