What do orange peels have to do with the meat industry? More than anyone might have thought possible, as a matter of fact. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture have a hunch that citrus byproducts could go a long way in reducing food-borne pathogens in cows, which ultimately translates to safer meat and healthier consumers.
Researchers published their findings in the latest issue of the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s own Agricultural Research magazine, noting that orange peels might be a boon for farmers that won’t be too hard to add to a cow’s daily diet – as it turns out, cows seem to love the taste of orange peel and pulp just as much as we love the fruit’s juicy insides. But it’s the naturally occurring “d-limonene” compound that is of special interest to scientists. Often used in cleaning products as an antimicrobial agent, the compound may also be giving cows’ stomach contents that same fresh citrus scent.
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According to the report, USDA researchers have been looking at citrus as an avenue to food safety improvements since 1999. But this most recent round of testing has specifically looked at the correlation between feeding cows processed orange peel pellets and those same cows’ intestinal pathogen counts. The pellets were developed by ARS researcher Todd Callaway as a method of making orange peels easier to transport, and it seems that – even processed – they’re getting the job done. “The team fed the pellets to sheep as a model for cows for 8 days,” reads the Agricultural Research magazine report. “They found a 10-fold reduction in Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7 in the animals’ intestinal contents.”
That’s certainly a positive step, and thanks to these findings Callaway was awarded a grant from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (Beef Checkoff funds) to help fund further research. Callaway and his team are currently preparing for orange peel pellet field trials with help from the USDA, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Florida. It’s no wonder there is so much backing for the study – as Callaway knows, positive results could mean big things for the future of farming and food safety: “These studies have the potential to lead to one more in a series of hurdles set up to prevent the spread of food borne pathogens.”
[VIA: Food Safety News]