Study Reveals Myths About Niche-Marketed Beef Safety

Niche-marketed food products are rapidly gaining market share in today's society.

Niche-marketed food products are rapidly gaining market share in today's society. Consumers are willing to pay premium prices for food perceived to be safer, healthier, more nutritious, and better tasting than conventional food.

A review outlines typical production practices for niche-market beef production systems in the United States and compares prevalence estimates of foodborne pathogens in animals and produce from conventional and niche-market production systems. The two main niches for food animal production are organic and natural productions.

Organic and natural beef productions are becoming increasingly popular and there is high consumer demand. Two major differences between conventional beef production systems and niche-market production systems (natural and organic) are in the use of antimicrobials and growth-promoting hormones.

The impacts of these production systems on foodborne pathogens in beef cattle are variable and often data are nonexistent.

Studies directly comparing conventional and niche-market production systems for dairy, swine, poultry, and produce have observed that the prevalence of foodborne pathogens was seldom statistically different between production systems, but when differences were observed, prevalence was typically greater for the niche-market production systems than the conventional production system.

The published literature suggests that the perception of niche-marketed food products being safer and healthier for consumers with regard to foodborne pathogens may not be justified.