Productivity, food safety go hand in hand

In the day-in, day-out work of a producer, keeping cattle healthy, thriving and productive is job one. Yet, as beef producers go about those tasks, keeping the end zone in view is paramount. And for beef producers, the end zone is the product that consumers, both at home and in a restaurant, enjoy.

That means food safety is also high on the list. While food safety may seem like a distant relative to cattle producers’ foremost concerns — keeping cattle healthy and gaining well—the two goals have much in common, notes Kerry Barling, DVM, Ph.D., global manager of beef technology, Lallemand Animal Nutrition.

“Food safety is an issue across the entire food chain,” Barling says. “The good news is that we can focus on gain and safety at the same time. There are simple, effective measures that set the stage for all other food safety measures to work better. These are practices many producers are already doing, but implementing them consistently can help ensure a safe, wholesome food supply.”

According to the Beef Industry Food Safety Council (BIFSCo), these animal husbandry practices are “prerequisites,” that must be in place to build a foundation for other control measures that more directly affect food safety. These prerequisites include steps like those outlined in Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) programs, such as:

  •          Providing clean feed and water,
  •          Draining and maintaining cattle pens and grazing areas,
  •          Keeping cattle free from pests and insects.

“Without a good foundation, all other measures are going to be less effective,” Barling says. “For instance, coliform bacteria like E. coli can be a food safety concern and act as silage spoilage microbe. Using an inoculant to limit the ability of these microbes to grow in the silage can positively affect production and food safety.”

Once appropriate prerequisite programs like this are in place, cattle producers can incorporate second-tier management practices or technologies to further support foodborne pathogen control. Some of these second-tier interventions can have positive effects on productivity as well, Barling notes.

For instance, in-feed probiotics, or direct-fed microbials (DFMs), are documented to reduce the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 in feedlot cattle.1 Recently, probiotic strain Lactobacillus acidophilus BT-1386 was added to the 2015 pre-harvest production best practice (PBP) document released by the BIFSCo, based on peer-reviewed literature available to support its effectiveness against E. coli O157:H7.1

Two Micro-Cell® products from Lallemand Animal Nutrition contain this proprietary strain ─ Micro-Cell LA and Micro-Cell GOLD. L. acidophilus BT-1386 works by excluding pathogenic bacteria, which naturally helps reduce E. coli and Salmonella shedding.1 Pathogenic bacteria also can influence performance and feed efficiency, Barling explains.

In a study, cattle supplemented with L. acidophilus BT-1386 had a 4.2% improvement in feed conversion and a 3.2% improvement in average daily gain (ADG) compared to controls.2 In the same study, L. acidophilus BT-1386 supplemented-cattle had a net weight gain advantage of 13 lbs/head.2

“We can reduce the burden of E. coli 0157:H7 in groups of cattle, but there is no silver bullet to completely eliminating these ubiquitous and naturally occurring bacteria,” Barling says. “Probiotics can work together with other pre-harvest and post-harvest interventions to secure the trust and confidence of consumers for the safety and wholesomeness of beef products. At the same time, cattle producers can experience the benefits in efficiency. That’s a win-win for the entire food chain.”


1 Production Best Practices (PBP) to Aid in the Control of Foodborne Pathogens in Groups of Cattle. Beef Industry Food Safety Council Subcommittee on Pre-Harvest. Spring 2015. Accessed March 19, 2015. Available at:

2 Lallemand Animal Nutrition. Unpublished. United States. 1996.