Natural, organic poultry food-safety research set


(, November 20, 2008)
by Bryan Salvage

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WASHINGTON — University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture food and poultry scientists are heading up a team consisting of several institutions that were awarded a three-year grant for almost $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Integrated Food Safety Initiative to conduct food-safety research in natural and organic poultry.

Professor Steven Ricke at the U.A. Food Science Department and the Center for Excellence in Poultry Science, is the project leader and Phil Crandall, a professor in food science, and Frank Jones, associate director for extension in poultry science, are team members.

At present, organic poultry totals no more than 2% of the U.S. poultry market, but it is the largest share of the organic meat market and growing rapidly. Sales of organic broilers between 1997 and 2003 have skyrocketed from approximately 38,000 to 6.3 million birds.

The rapid growth of the market necessitates a need to conduct a comprehensive study of how to ensure the safety of such products, Mr. Ricke said. Organic and natural poultry are currently produced and processed in smaller facilities compared to conventional poultry. Mr. Ricke said the smaller production efforts are usually not integrated, which provides less opportunity to control product quality, including food safety, compared to large-scale, integrated production. To date a minimal amount of university research has focused on small-scale poultry production systems or their food-safety issues, he added.

As a result, the research team will coordinate 13 research specialists on four teams from the University of Arkansas, Texas A&M University, West Virginia University, Cornell University, Purdue University, with Dr. Anne Fanatico of the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Each team has experts who can address the problems associated with food safety in organic and natural poultry, Mr. Ricke said.

Guidelines for Good Agricultural Practices for food safety on natural and organic poultry farms will ultimately be created that will focus on developing plans for plants of particular sizes. Since natural and organic poultry production do not use antibiotics or other medications, G.A.P.s will play a critical role in ensuring safety for this niche segment.



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