Raw Chicken Achieves Safety Milestone

The chicken industry received some good news earlier this week regarding food safety. Tom Super, VP of Communications for the National Chicken Council based in Washington, DC explains:

“According to USDA’s quarterly progress report on salmonella we found that the decline of salmonella on chicken carcasses has declined about 34% over the first quarter of 2013, a decrease of 120% over the last 5 years.”

Super attributes the reduction in disease-causing bacteria in raw chicken to several factors, starting with the egg:

“Its our acute focus on food safety. It’s the number of interventions and process controls that companies have in place, even before the egg is hatched. Companies take many steps to reduce the chance of salmonella on the final product.”

But, hands down, the most critical point of reducing bacteria is in processing says Super:

“From the second that the birds get delivered to the plant to when the final product leaves, there are many hurdles it must go through before it can leave the door and meet and exceed USDA performance standards. It can be an organic rinse, metal detector testing, several washes and other testing.”

And of course, the safety of the product on the retail shelf is only as effective as the handling process in homes and restaurants:

“We need consumers to be the final partner in food safety and take special caution in handling any raw product, from meat to vegetables. It also should be cooked to the proper internal temperature. For chicken that is 165 degrees internally. Cross contamination should be kept down by using separate cutting boards for poultry and vegetables.”

So, with a rating far below USDA’s minimum standard, where do we go from here? Super has some thoughts:

“We are only going to strive to get better. The performance standard right now that USDA allows is 7.5% for young chicken carcasses. This most recent report shows we are at 2.6%. We will continue to make progress. It may never get to zero as it occurs naturally, but we are doing everything we can do reduce it.”

Broilers and turkeys are the top cash receipts in South Carolina, and North Carolina is fourth in the country in overall poultry production.

Vice President of Communications for the National Chicken Council, Tom Super.


A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.