Researchers have found a new way to reduce Salmonella in poultry before they go to the processing plant: use probiotics instead of antibiotics for treatment of the birds.
Probiotics are live organisms that serve as microbial feed supplements for animals to improve their intestinal microbial balance. Results from experiments show that probiotics can reduce Salmonella in either meat-type chicken houses or turkey houses before being transported to the processing plant and reduce the risk of cross contamination among turkeys at the plant, says Billy Hargis, director of the Poultry Health Research Laboratory.
“We’re talking about organisms that can be produced very cheaply, which keeps the costs of these treatments very low,” Hargis said. His research group has taken the lactobacillus probiotic, a form of milk bacteria found in the bird, and added it to poultry water or feed.
Replacing antibiotics with probiotics has advantages, but there is some tradeoff. Hargis noted that although animal foods won’t be populated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the lack of antibiotics means producers will need to find other ways to promote their birds’ growth. That means giving more feed to the birds to accomplish the task.
But the advantages offered by probiotics indicate where the future may be. Hargis cited the new probiotic candidate’s stability even in the presence of the heat generated when feed is being turned into pellets, as well as its overall environmental stability. The major plus is its usage in the feed itself, which makes it part of an ongoing process.
“We’re using it to prevent problems continuously as opposed to treating problems when they occur,” Hargis said.