Quantification of campylobacter and salmonella in cattle before, during, and after the slaughter process

Melanie J. Abley, Thomas E. Wittum, Henry N. Zerby, Julie A. Funk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Salmonella and Campylobacter cause a significant number of human illnesses globally, most of which are food related. Cattle can be asymptomatic carriers of both of these pathogens. The objective of this study was to determine the association between the concentration of Salmonella and Campylobacter pre-and postharvest in cattle. Samples were collected from each of 98 individually identified cattle during the periharvest and postharvest period. For each animal, four different phases were sampled: on farm (fecal sample), poststunning and exsanguination (hide sponge and rectal content sample [lairage]), prechilling (carcass sponge), and final product (ground meat). Salmonella and Campylobacter were cultured and quantified at each stage by using the direct dilution and most probable number (MPN) method. Salmonella was not isolated from any sample. The proportion (%) of samples that were Campylobacter positive was 77, 82, 97, 55, and 12 for farm, rectal content, hide, carcass, and meat samples respectively. The mean Campylobacter concentration for each sample was as follows: fecal sample from farm, 3.7×104 cfu/g; rectal content sample from lairage, 1.6×105 cfu/g; hide sponge, 0.9 cfu/cm2; carcass sponge, 8.7 cfu/half carcass; and meat, 1.1 cfu/g. There were no associations between Campylobacter concentrations for any two sample types. This lack of association could indicate that there is an environmental reservoir that can contaminate the final meat product, or since the majority of animals were positive entering the slaughter process, that the process itself reduces the load of Campylobacter regardless of the initial concentration. In addition, contamination of beef may be more strongly associated with periharvest practices than animal carriage rates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-119
Number of pages7
JournalFoodborne Pathogens and Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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