Your Burgers Are Still Done at 71

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.

Maintaining consumer confidence is crucial to our industry. Consumer confidence in the safety of Canadian beef was briefly shaken by the 2012 XL Foods E. coli outbreak that infected at least 18 people, and resulted in the recall of 1,800 tonnes of beef, a $4 million legal settlement and the sale of the packing plant to JBS Canada. That event also led to a resurgence in media interest in E. coli research. Articles in both Meatingplace.com and the National Post featured interviews with researchers who expressed concern that Health Canada’s recommendation to cook hamburger patties to an internal temperature of 71oC may not be adequate to kill some strains of E. coli. These concerns stemmed from papers published in 2011, 2015 and 2016 that studied the genetics of heat resistant E. coli strains that had survived carcass washing interventions in a commercial beef processing facility in 2001 and 2002.

These concerns deserved serious investigation. In response, Continue reading

Practical and effective food safety procedures for beef packing plants



Recent work has shown that E. coli can essentially be eliminated from dressed carcasses in commercial packing plants. Carcass chilling processes can be operated to supplement or largely substitute for decontaminating treatments. Machinery and personal equipment can be cleaned and used in ways that prevent such equipment from contaminating meat during carcass breaking. As a result, food safety issues with beef may arise if known best practices and treatments and practices necessary to produce cuts and trimmings free of pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella are incompletely or inappropriately implemented.

Research currently underway and funded by the National Check-off and Canada’s Beef Science Cluster is working to identify which Continue reading

Flipping for Mechanically Tenderized Beef

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted on the BCRC Blog with permission of the publisher.


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All food surfaces carry bacteria, including steaks and roasts. Because beef cooks from the outside in, the outer surface is exposed to higher temperatures for a longer time than the inside of the beef. The heat of cooking will inactivate bacteria as long as they remain on the outside of cuts, and the surface is cooked thoroughly. That’s why steaks and roasts can be eaten rare. In ground beef, microbes from the surface get mixed throughout the beef, so consumers are encouraged to cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 71oC.

Mechanical tenderization pierces beef with small blades or fine needles. This cuts the connective tissue and makes the beef more tender. This improves the eating quality of lower cost, tougher beef cuts. Price and tenderness are two of the major drivers of consumer buying behavior and eating satisfaction, so mechanical tenderization has proven quite useful. Approximately 20% of Canadian beef is mechanically tenderized.

But if there are Continue reading