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The development of methods to determine the geographical origin of poultry
Project Code: Q01086
Institute of Food Research Enterprises Ltd
The aim of this project was to investigate the applicability of multi-element and multiisotopic
analysis, together with statistical processing of the resultant data, to
determine the geographical origin of poultry and hence provide a means to verify
poultry origin labels. In this respect, the techniques applied and interpretation
described in this report are considered to provide a reliable means of distinguishing
European poultry from Third Country poultry imports from South America, Thailand
and China, in the majority of cases.
Multivariate statistical analysis has demonstrated that 18 variables, including carbon,
hydrogen and nitrogen stable isotope ratios and elemental concentrations of
magnesium, thallium, rubidium and molybdenum, are important parameters in poultry
origin determination. Using cross-validated discriminant analysis 88.3% of poultry
geographical origins were correctly classified (n = 317). Individual correctclassification
rates were as follows; China, 100% (n = 36); Brazil, 94.1% (n = 101);
Europe 92% (n=87); Chile 82.6% (n =46); Thailand, 70.3% (n = 46) and Argentina
50% (n = 10). The main identification errors were associated with miss-classification
of Argentinean samples with those originating from Chile and Thailand.
Carbon stable isotope ratios of chicken meat indicate the quantity of maize in the diet
and this leads to useful discrimination between a large proportion of European poultry
and poultry reared in locations such as South America, Thailand and China where
maize feeding predominates. The use of poultry carbon isotope values as a simple ‘
screening’ parameter to differentiate European poultry meat from other major
importers is not as reliable as for the differentiation of European and South American
beef. However carbon isotope ratios will be useful in most instances to corroborate
suspicion of mislabelling of non corn-fed European poultry.
This project has demonstrated that the stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in
chicken meat change in a similar way to surface waters around the globe. The
findings support the hypothesis that the global isotopic variation of stable isotopes in
drinking water and feed are transferred into animal tissue and can be used to help
establish an animal’s geographic origin. Hydrogen and oxygen isotope values in
poultry have been found to parallel the relationship between hydrogen and oxygen
isotope ratios in fresh waters on a global scale. Isotopically depleted waters are
associated with cold regions and enriched waters are found in warm regions and
these patterns are preserved in poultry through their feed and water. This is a
significant finding and parallels our observations for beef δ2H‰ and δ18O‰ values.
These systematic variations can be exploited to give a ‘low-resolution’ indication of an
animal’s geographic origin (e.g Northern Europe versus the tropics).
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