Why more beef producers aren't using E. coli vaccines for cattle

Dive Brief:

  • Scottish researchers have developed a new E. coli vaccine for cattle and now seek commercial partners to conduct field trials where multiple strains of the pathogen are present, Food Safety News reported.
  • Two similar vaccines are already available on the North American market, but sales and demand for those vaccines are low.
  • Experts attribute the vaccines' slow sales to U.S. beef producers finding alternative E. coli interventions to be more cost-effective than vaccines. Researchers estimate the cost of vaccines to be $8.35 to $15 per head.

Dive Insight:

Beef producers may not be keen on increasing production costs, especially as the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates a 1% to 2% decline for beef prices in the coming year. Consumers' willingness-to-pay for meat products has also declined across the board in the past year.

At the same time, more consumers are looking for antibiotic-free meat products, and many would pay higher prices for them. E. coli vaccines could prevent the need for antibiotics use, and producers could potentially offset the additional production costs for the vaccines by charging higher prices for the antibiotic-free products at retail.

However, just as debate surrounds the use of vaccines for human health, many consumers and health experts take opposing views on vaccine use in the food supply. Researchers may have to provide more information about how vaccines used in cattle could impact the health of humans who consume the meat and dairy products from vaccine-treated cows before such innovations become more commonplace.

Filed Under: Food Safety Meat / Protein