Aerobic plate counts of 3,455 brisket and 1,370 ground beef samples were examined for association with slaughter volume in 547 U.S. beef slaughter establishments. In general, high-volume beef slaughter establishments control total aerobic bacteria counts on briskets and ground beef more effectively than small volume establishments. The lower Aerobic plate counts at high slaughter volumes may have resulted from uniformity of cattle slaughtered, specialization of labor, measures taken to prevent contamination, and effective decontamination of carcasses in high-volume slaughter establishments. In this study the prevalence of Salmonella contamination was found to be more closely associated with the health of animals brought to slaughter than with certain conditions in the slaughter establishments. The prevalence of contamination of brisket and ground beef samples with Salmonella was highest in calf slaughter establishments. Salmonella contamination on brisket samples increased as antemortem condemnation increased in establishments that slaughter calves. No association was found between Salmonella contamination and slaughter volume.

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Author notes

1Department of Medical Microbiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602.

2Food Safety and Inspection Service, Science and Technology, Microbiology Division, Microbiological Monitoring and Surveillance Branch, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250.

3Food Safety and Inspection Service, Science and Technology, Statistics and Data Sytstems Division, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250.

4Food Safety and Inspection Service, Science and Technology, Microbiology, Eastern Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, College Station Road, Athens, Georgia 30604.

5Food Safety and Inspection Service, Science and Technology, Microbiology, Midwestern Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, St. Louis, Missouri 63115.

6Food Safety, and Inspection Service, Science and Technology, Microbiology, Western Laboratory, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Alameda, California 94501.