Does providing bedding have benefits to the safety of the meat purchased by consumers?
Bedding allows the animal to stay cleaner and maintain less manure, urine, and mud on the animal’s hide. This is important because pathogenic bacteria exist in the feces, manure and mud that could be transferred to the meat products during harvest. The transfer of pathogenic bacteria may occur when the hide is being opened or during the hide removal process. With increased mud and manure on the animals coat there is a greater opportunity to transfer microorganisms and pathogenic bacteria to the carcass. Therefore, any on-farm practice that will help the animal stay cleaner helps ensure safe meat products.
What happens at the packing plant to ensure meat safety?
There is a tremendous amount of innovation and effort at packing plants to ensure that meat products are safe and remain of high quality. In order to ensure product safety, beef packers employ numerous strategies to reduce or eliminate harmful bacteria from beef products. First and foremost, each carcass is inspected to ensure wholesome and safety for consumers by a USDA or State Inspector. Each packer also has a specific food safety plan to ensure that they are reducing or eliminating safety concerns associated with their process. These plans are known as HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) Plans and are designed as preventive measures to ensure safety of their products and reduce contaminants to the meat. Each plant or facility may implement different methods to reduce harmful bacteria, such as using hot water washes, organic acid washes, or steam pasteurization. All of these methods are designed specifically to reduce or prevent harmful bacteria on carcasses and beef products.
First, cattlemen provide care for the cattle on the farm or ranch that promotes optimal health and a clean hide. Then the packing plant takes specific steps to further reduce the potential pathogens on the meat. All of these careful steps coupled with proper food handling and cooking techniques greatly reduce the risk of foodborne illness to your family.