A new study out of Pennsylvania State University suggests that raw chickens from farmers markets may be more likely to carry foodborne pathogens than the same product found at grocery stores. Researchers found that, out of a small sample of whole, uncooked chickens purchased throughout Pennsylvania, those from farmers markets were more likely to carry Campylobacter – the bacteria most commonly found on raw poultry. Levels of Salmonella were slightly higher among grocery-bought chickens than among farmers market-bought chickens, but overall bacterial loads were greater among farmers market chickens. Out of 100 chicken purchased from farmers markets, the Penn State scientists found that 90 percent tested positive for Campylobacter and 28 percent tested positive for Salmonella. In a sample of chickens purchased from grocery stores in the state over the same time period, 20 percent of organic, raw, whole birds tested positive for Campylobacter, while 28 percent tested positive for Salmonella. Among whole, nonorganic chickens bought at grocery stores, 8 percent were harboring Campylobacter, while 52 percent tested positive for Salmonella. While it’s small in scope, the study — published in the Journal of Food Science — points to a need for more research on contamination of raw chicken at farmers markets, say its authors. “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. “As patronage continues to increase at farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer marketing channels, the risks associated with purchasing fresh products directly from the farmer or vendor must be evaluated,” added Joshua Scheinberg, who conducted the research for his master’s degree in food science. “Potentially hazardous foods, such as milk, cheeses, and raw meat and poultry, also are popular at these venues.” The study is available for purchase through the Wiley Online Library.