Maintaining consumer confidence in a safe, wholesome beef supply starts well before a steak ever reaches the plate. In fact, every beef producer can implement practices that enhance food safety — and some practices even have added benefits to gain and growth, said Dr. H. Nielsen, technical service-ruminant with Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
“Consumers are counting on us to deliver food that is safe,” Nielsen said. “The first line of defense is the farm or ranch. In many cases, food safety practices are things cattle producers are already doing. Yet, the industry as a whole may not be as successful with other food-safety interventions if these practices aren’t implemented correctly first.”
According to the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo), the key components of first-tier food safety programs includes providing cattle: clean feed, clean water, appropriately drained and maintained environments and relative freedom from pests like biting insects.
Specific guidance on principle-based animal husbandry practices, like these, are outlined in the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program.
Once these practices are consistently in place, producers can include other strategies such as feeding a probiotic or direct-fed microbial to help control the prevalence of Escherichia coli — one of the main food safety threats. The probiotic strain Lactobacillus acidophilus BT-1386 is listed as a pre-harvest production best practices (PBP) by the BIFSCo.
PBP documents are developed by subcommittees within BIFSCo, which is an organization that brings together representatives from all segments of the beef industry to develop industry-wide, science-based strategies to solve the problem of E. coli O157:H7 and other foodborne pathogens in beef.
Also, cattle fed L. acidophilus BT-1386 also showed a 4.2% improvement in feed conversion and a 3.06% improvement in average daily gain compared to controls, Nielsen noted.
“It’s a win-win when producers can improve the herd’s efficiency and safeguard consumer confidence at the same time,” Nielsen said. “There is no one silver bullet that completely controls foodborne pathogens. It will take adoption of best practices at every level of the food supply.”