This study was conducted to evaluate the microbial quality of lamb and goat meat sold through local (Virginia) and Internet (U.S.) retail markets. A total of 134 frozen meat products consisting of locally purchased lamb ground (LLG) and lamb chops and Internet-procured lamb ground, goat ground, lamb chops (ILC), goat chops (IGC), lamb stew, and goat stew were tested. Significantly higher levels of aerobic mesophiles, psychrotrophs, and coliforms were found in the meat locally acquired than in the meat procured from the Internet. Similar average prevalence (27%) of Escherichia coli was observed regardless of market source. Ground meat had significantly high levels and prevalence of mesophiles, psychrotrophs, coliforms, and Listeria spp. One sample of LLG contained Campylobacter, and one sample of IGC contained Salmonella. Listeria spp. were present in 23 to 40% and 17 to 80% of samples from local and Internet markets, respectively. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) of isolated E. coli strains revealed brand specificity and genomic diversity. No isolate from different brands and market sources had matching PFGE profiles. The average price of Internet meat ($23.4/kg) was about 1.2 times higher than the price of local meat, except for ILC, whose price was 2.7 times higher. This study revealed differences in microbial quality of lamb and goat meat based on market source; thus, meat products should be handled carefully regardless of market source because of the presence of high microbial levels and the high prevalence of pathogens.

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Author notes

This article is a contribution of Virginia State University, Agricultural Research Station (journal series 321) based on a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.