Less Salmonella Found on Organic Chicken Farms

The University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety tested organic and non-organic chicken farms for salmonella.

They found a huge difference between the two.

The study tested organic and non-organic farms owned by the same North Carolina company.  They took samples of chicken feed, water and feces and compared the rates of salmonella and antibiotic resistance.

38.8 percent of chickens were infected on non-organic farms, while only 5.6 percent were on organic farms.  27.5 percent of feed samples were infected on non-organic farms, while 5 percent were on organic farms.

No Antibiotics

If You Can't Find Organic, This May Be Your Next Best Bet Against Salmonella.

A big reason for the difference in salmonella rates is the way the birds are raised.  Non-organic farms can pack birds right next to each other, making it easier for them to transfer diseases.  Organic farms, because they’re not allowed to use antibiotics or feed chickens animal by-products, and because they must allow the chickens access to the outdoors, are limited in how tightly they can pack their chickens.  They must be sure the chickens can survive without antibiotics.  And so, less tightly packed together, organic chickens are less likely to spread disease.

But the sheer prevalence of salmonella on conventional chicken farms isn’t the only concern.  The bigger worry may be the presence of antibiotic-resistant salmonella on conventional farms.  Almost 40% of the salmonella found on conventional chickens was resistant to a six-antibiotic treatment, whereas none of the salmonella found on organic chickens was resistant to the treatment.

This is both unsurprising and scary.  Unsurprising because doctors have long cautioned that the use of antibiotics on conventional farms as a preventative measure and to fatten chickens gives birth to new, antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  These bacteria can infect humans but can’t be controlled by our existing antibiotics.  Scary because these numbers are high enough that it’s clear doctors’ fears are coming to bear.  After a study like this, it’s hard to argue that conventional chicken farming isn’t leading to antibiotic resistant salmonella.

Does that mean you should buy organic chicken?  Well, it’s certainly another reason to.  But since there is at least some salmonella on some organic chicken farms, it’s still good to follow the government’s advice on preparing chicken–cook it thoroughly, and be sure that any juices that run off the uncooked chicken don’t end up in the rest of your food, either from a cutting board, your sink or your kitchen counter.

But the government doesn’t have any guidance on avoiding antibiotic resistance.  In the mean time, let’s hope we can come up with new antibiotics fast enough to keep up with the new bacteria we’re creating with very questionable farming practices.

Would you feel more comfortable eating organic chicken?

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9 Responses to Less Salmonella Found on Organic Chicken Farms

  1. I’m not sure that coming up with new antibiotics to deal with the current antibiotic resistant salmonella strains is the solution: then we are just in an arms-race with the bacteria that become increasingly more resistant to the new drugs. Like the problem with super-bugs in hospitals.

    Very interesting post, as always. Thank you for making such important information available and easy to access, and for taking the time to inform the world!

    • Doug says:


      Yes our entire agricultural policy in this country seems to be based around your idea of an “arms race,” particularly with respect to GMOs and “super-weeds” but certainly also with antibiotics. I suppose the good side is, we have faith in our ability to solve problems. But the sad thing is we create so many problems we simply shouldn’t have to solve.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, for your kind words and above all for your recognition at SaltedTomato! I enjoy checking in your blog. It seems that many of Organaholic’s readers maintain recipe-driven blogs and I wish I cooked more and could take advantage! Keep at it and thanks for pointing out other blogs that you value.


  2. I think I’ll just stick to passing on the chicken as a whole. But I do try to buy organic when I purchase for my Boyfriend. I can’t afford all organic…but I do try especially with dairy and meat.

    • Doug says:

      Melissa, That’s certainly one way to avoid the problem! But good for you that you look out for your boyfriend when he brings the problem into your house. Organic is definitely a step up for animal products, though a grass diet may be even more important, if you can find food from grass-fed animals. Supply and cost are still big issues here, though I’m optimistic that that will change over time. Doug

  3. Pingback: High-Protein, Low-Carb. Bad for the Colon? | Organaholic! Organic Food Blog

  4. Pingback: McDonald’s Will Start Using (Some) Cage Free Eggs | Organaholic! Organic Food Blog

  5. Pingback: Organic Chicken Farms Have Less Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Than Non-Organic Chicken Farms | Organaholic! Organic Food Blog

  6. Derrick Dederick says:

    Salmonella can be very deadly because they produce toxins which can damage the human body. always be careful when eating foods outside of your house. :*.`,

    Our favorite web portal

  7. Felica says:

    Great post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Very useful info particularly the last part:) I care for such info much. I was looking for this certain information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

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