Submitted to: Journal of Food Protection
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/20/2005
Publication Date: 11/1/2005
Citation: Bailey, J.S., Cosby, D.E. 2005. Salmonella prevalence in free-range and certified organic chickens. Journal of Food Protection. 68(11):2451-2453. Interpretive Summary: Many consumers think that chickens grown in free-range or organic conditions will have less Salmonella and other unhealthy bacteria than chickens grown in crowded commercial conditions. We tested 188 processed chickens from 7 different free-range and organic for the presence of Salmonella. About 30% of these chickens were found to be have Salmonella which is more than is commonly found in traditionally grown chickens. Consumers should not assume that just because a chicken is free-range or organic that it has less Salmonella.
Technical Abstract: Many consumers assume that broiler chickens grown under traditional commercial conditions will have more Salmonella than free-range or organic chickens which are usually less crowded, have access to outside spaces during grow-out, and are fed special diets. Despite these perceptions, there is a lack of published information about the microbiological status of free-range and organic chickens. A total of 135 processed free-range chickens from 4 different commercial free-range chicken producers were sampled in 14 different lots for the presence of Salmonella. Overall, 9 of 14 (64%) lots and 42 of 135 (31%) of the carcasses were positive for Salmonella. No Salmonella were detected from 5 of the 14 lots and in one lot 100% all of the chickens were positive for Salmonella. Additionally, 53 all natural, no meat or poultry meal or antibiotics in the feed, processed chickens from 8 lots were tested and 25% of the individual chickens from 37% of the lots tested positive for Salmonella. Three lots of chickens from a single organic free-range producer were tested and all three of the lots and 60% of the individual chickens were found to be Salmonella positive. In comparison, FSIS has reported that commercial chickens processed from 2000 to 2003 had a Salmonella prevalence rate of 9.1 to 12.8% . Consumers should not assume that just because chickens are grown under free-range or organic conditions that they will have less Salmonella.