raw chicken

Raw chickens purchased from Pennsylvania farmers markets contained a higher bacteria load than those purchased at supermarkets, a new study found.

The study, conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and published in the Journal of Food Science found whole uncooked chickens from farmers markets to be “more likely to carry foodborne pathogens than the same product found at grocery stores,” reports Food Safety News.

While the study’s sample of chickens was considerably small—and not an indicator of farmers market chickens from other regions—the results were consistent, with levels of Campylobacter, a pathogen most commonly found on poultry, to be higher and more frequent on the farmers market chicken. Ninety percent of the 100 chickens purchased from farmers markets tested positive for Campylobacter and 28 percent tested positive for Salmonella. The store-bought samples had higher levels of Salmonella: “Among whole, nonorganic chickens bought at grocery stores, 8 percent were harboring Campylobacter, while 52 percent tested positive for Salmonella,” reports Food Safety News, but “overall bacterial loads were greater among farmers market chickens.”

The study authors suggest the initial findings warrant more research into the issue. “Some people believe that local food is safer, but we want to caution that’s not always the case,” said Catherine Cutter, lead author of the study and food safety extension specialist at Penn State. ”We hope this small study will lead to more extensive research to determine why we are seeing the levels of pathogens in these products and to find ways to mitigate them,” Cutter told Penn State News.

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