Jason Timmerman coaxed a balky calf into a chute on his feedlot one recent afternoon and jabbed a needle into its neck. He was injecting the animal with a new vaccine to make it immune to a dangerous form of the E. coli bacteria.
The calf and thousands of others are part of a large-scale test to see whether animal vaccines are an answer to one of the nation’s most persistent food-safety problems.
The test has been a long time coming. Bureaucratic delays in Washington stalled the arrival of the vaccines for years, even as people continued to become sick and die from eating tainted beef. And now, even if the vaccines prove successful in the ambitious tests that are just getting under way, they face an uncertain future as farmers and feedlot owners worry about who will pick up the extra cost.
“I hope it works,” Mr. Timmerman said. “It probably won’t be so good for my pocketbook directly, but it’ll probably be good for the industry.”