Summary of Awards to Date

Evaluation of mechanically tenderized beef and the implications for industry changes.

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Sep. 1, 2008 - Aug. 31, 2012

Award Number


Funding Agency

Center for Produce Safety


Christy L. Bratcher, Ph.D.
Auburn University


Over the past few years there have been a multitude of beef recalls associated with contamination of beef with Escherichia coli O157:H7 as well as other harmful bacteria. Due to the millions of pounds of beef that has been recalled due to the possible contamination with these harmful bacteria, government legislation is working to strengthen programs which will reduce the likelihood of contamination of meat products. While it is most certainly a need to have strict food safety measures in place to protect consumers, there is also necessity to assess the potential risks that are associated with current processing technologies to alleviate any unnecessary preventive measures. This is not only true with large corporations who are key players in the meat industry but with small processors as well. With the increasing number of regulations applying to the meat industry, there is an increasing burden to small processors. Many small processors have a lack of knowledge, decreased productivity and increased cost associated with meat production as more regulations are implemented. This all adds up to a decrease in profitability and many processors are not going to be able to overcome the financial burden and will lose the ability to sustain their business. While there has been some research on this topic, it is not all inclusive and does not provide for specific recommendations that processors should consider when making decisions for the benefit of their company. Current research also does not provide a definitive reason to consider mechanical tenderization a food safety concern as long as current regulations are being followed. This project will look at factors associated with food safety and beef production that follow along with impending legislation to strengthen the safety of our meat supply. Specifically, the project will evaluate the need for measures that could or should be implemented for testing protocol of major pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 in non-intact beef products aside from ground products. Samples will be taken of surface and of deep muscle tissue after tenderization to determine if there are transfer patterns of bacteria into the inner tissue of beef. The long-term goal of this project is to help government as well as processors evaluate what regulations are needed as well as helping to identify intervention strategies in the processing plant to assure that the best possible effort is being applied when producing the safest meat supply. The overall objectives of this project are specifically to identify the transfer pattern of Escherichia coli species, including specifically Escherichia coli O157:H7 in non-intact beef products and to develop suggested guidelines for cleaning equipment in an effective manner to provide a hurdle for transmission of pathogens. There are also potential ingredients which could be applied to the surface of meat in conjunction with mechanically tenderizing as an antimicrobial. These products could not impart a flavor difference on the meat, and need to be researched.