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Understanding Salmonella in Poultry and How to Prevent it Naturally

Understanding Salmonella in Poultry & How to Prevent it Naturally

Salmonella is a very serious concern for commercial poultry producers. Flock infections can lead to foodborne illness in consumers, reduced flock performance and even increased flock mortality.

Now classified as an adulterant by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Salmonella will have even stricter guidelines regarding cleanliness in poultry facilities and programs for monitoring Salmonella levels.

To prevent contamination, it’s important for producers to understand the sources of Salmonella, symptoms and management tips to ensure their flocks remain healthy. Let’s discuss ways to reduce Salmonella outbreaks and how to do it naturally.

Understanding Salmonella infections

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Salmonella is responsible for about 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths in the United States every year. Salmonella bacteria are estimated to cause more foodborne illnesses than other bacteria found in consumable products.

Salmonella outbreaks can occur from several common grocery store products like chicken, turkey, beef, pork, vegetables, fruits, nuts and even processed foods. But according to the USDA poultry products are responsible for the majority of Salmonella related illnesses, roughly 23%.

What causes Salmonellosis in poultry?

Salmonellosis is caused by the bacteria, Salmonella enterica, which has over 2,500 subspecies that infect people and animals. It can be found in food, water or soil and can spread from one bird to another through contaminated feces or feed. Two of the most dangerous subspecies of Salmonella to humans is Salmonella typhimurium and Salmonella enteritidis.

Birds can acquire Salmonella from the feces of other birds or infected animals, but also from the egg. Hens with salmonella infections can lay eggs containing Salmonella which could lead to infected chicks or even human exposure.

Symptoms of Salmonella in poultry

Symptoms of Salmonella in poultry can be hard to detect. The most common symptoms include weakness, decreased feed intake, unthriftiness (decreased/shunted growth) and high mortality rates. Unfortunately, birds don’t present many telltale Salmonella symptoms before it’s too late.

Similarly, birds infected with Salmonella may show signs of depression or diarrhea. These symptoms shouldn’t be ignored as Salmonella can spread if left untreated. Contact a veterinarian if an outbreak is suspected.

Good biosecurity and regular salmonella surveillance testing can help producers monitor their flocks for illness before it becomes an outbreak.

New USDA Salmonella guidelines

The USDA established regulatory guidelines for reducing the risk of Salmonella outbreaks in commercial flocks starting in 2013 with the Salmonella Action Plan. These guidelines include routine testing of birds for the presence of Salmonella, proper sanitation and disinfection practices, good biosecurity measures such as limiting access to the farm and regular cleaning and disinfection of equipment and facilities used for raising birds.

The latest USDA framework now classifies Salmonella as an adulterant, meaning that any product contaminated with it must be recalled or destroyed immediately at the processing plant.

This new USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), framework for controlling Salmonella involves three key components:

  • Requiring that incoming flocks be tested for Salmonella before entering an establishment

  • Enhancing establishment process control monitoring and FSIS verification

  • Implementing an enforceable final product standard

The framework is designed to focus on the levels of Salmonella and highly virulent strains rather than just the presence or absence of Salmonella which should reduce the number of human illnesses associated with poultry products.

Management tips to reduce Salmonella naturally in broilers, layers and turkeys

The most important step a producer can take to reduce Salmonella outbreaks in their flocks is by implementing good biosecurity practices throughout their operations.

The best biosecurity tips to reduce Salmonella include:

  • Cleaning equipment and surfaces regularly

  • Preventing contact between wild birds and domestic poultry

  • Disposing of manure and litter safely

  • Providing adequate ventilation

  • Separating or culling diseased birds

  • Disinfecting cages regularly

  • Avoiding overcrowding

Poultry producers should also practice good nutritional management, focusing on high quality feed ingredients that have been tested for pathogenic bacteria, such as Salmonella, prior to feeding their commercial flocks.

Lastly, producers should implement proper Salmonella vaccinations. Although vaccination programs cannot eliminate Salmonella from a flock entirely, they can help mitigate its impact by reducing clinical signs of infection and shedding levels among infected birds.

How to naturally reduce Salmonella outbreaks in poultry

Fortunately, there are ways producers can naturally reduce Salmonella outbreaks without relying on antibiotics or other drugs that may cause drug resistance issues or other unwanted side effects.

One option is using essential oils which have been shown to have antimicrobial properties against certain strains of Salmonella and be effective at reducing bacterial load when ingested through water or feed.

Another option is adding probiotic and prebiotic supplements to feed rations which can help support overall gut health by promoting beneficial bacteria populations to help crowd out potentially harmful pathogens before they become established within a flock.

How Ralco can help naturally reduce Salmonella in poultry

For over 50 years Ralco has been helping poultry producers naturally overcome challenges for healthier flocks and more profitable operations. To help producers with Salmonella challenges, Ralco uses IntegraMOS® and Regano®.

IntegraMOS is a high-quality prebiotic yeast product that can be added to complete feeds to help support the immune system of birds during times of challenge. It contains a specially selected yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and is rich in mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) and beta glucans.

MOS helps reduce pathogen load, specifically Salmonella and E. coli, by acting as a receptor in the gut to attract and bind pathogens. Beta glucans help promote healthy immune function with further binding properties, reducing adhesion of Salmonella and E. coli to the digestive tract before they can cause harm.


Regano® is natural feed or water additive that contains patented Microfused® Essential Oils and Actifibe® Prebiotic. Microfused Essential Oils help stimulate appetite, promote gut health and reduce pathogen load resulting in more energy to birds for production. While Actifibe Prebiotic works to help feed beneficial bacteria in the gut to promote competitive exclusion and boost immune function.

Together, these two feed additives can help poultry producers naturally protect their flock from Salmonella.

By implementing naturally feed additives and using the management tips listed above, commercial poultry producers can help ensure the health of their flocks while also protecting consumers who purchase their products from potential harm caused by Salmonella contamination.

To learn more about how IntegraMOS and Regano can help naturally manage Salmonella in your flock, contact Ralco’s poultry nutritionist Dr. Tim Broderick at 1-800-533-5306 or email us at


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