Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/26/2004
Publication Date: 8/1/2004
Citation: Cason Jr, J.A., Hinton Jr, A., Buhr, R.J. 2004. Impact of feathers and feather follicles on broiler carcass bacteria. Poultry Science. 83(8):1452-1455.
Interpretive Summary: During poultry processing, the defeathering step has been identified as one point where bacterial contamination occurs, and empty feather follicles have been blamed for providing bacteria with protection from water rinses, chlorine, and other treatments aimed at washing off or killing potentially dangerous bacteria. This experiment tested that possibility by comparing typical chickens with chickens that have no feathers because of a natural mutation. The presence of feathers and empty feather follicles made no difference in the numbers of bacteria that were found on the carcasses during processing or after one week of refrigeration. Bacterial contamination during defeathering is caused by the defeathering process itself and not by the feathers or feather follicles. Efforts to make defeathering a cleaner process need to focus on the technology used to remove feathers.
Technical Abstract: Genetically featherless and feathered broiler siblings were used to test the contribution of feathers and feather follicles to the numbers of aerobic bacteria, E. coli, and Campylobacter in whole carcass rinse samples taken immediately after carcasses were defeathered for either 30 or 60 s. Numbers of spoilage bacteria were counted after the same fully processed carcasses were stored for 1 wk at 2 øC. In each of three replications, 28 11-wk-old, mixed sex, genetically featherless or feathered broilers were processed in a laboratory processing facility. Immediately after individual defeathering, carcasses were sampled using a carcass rinse technique. Carcasses were eviscerated, immersion chilled at 2 øC for 30 min, individually bagged, and stored for one week at 2 øC, after which all carcasses were rinsed again, with enumeration of spoilage bacteria in the rinsate. There were no significant differences (P ó 0.05) between the featherless and feathered broilers in numbers of aerobic bacteria, E. coli, and Campylobacter in rinse samples taken immediately after defeathering and no differences between carcasses picked for either 30 or 60 s. There were no differences in numbers of spoilage bacteria after 1 wk of refrigeration for any of the feather presence/picking length combinations. Although the defeathering step in poultry processing has been identified as a site for bacterial contamination from the intestinal tract and cross-contamination between carcasses, the presence of feathers and feather follicles does not make a significant difference in carcass bacterial contamination immediately after defeathering or in spoilage bacteria after one wk of refrigeration.