Verifying the geographical origin of beef: The application of multi-element isotope and trace element analysis

Karl Heaton, Simon D. Kelly, Jurian Hoogewerff, Mark Woolfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Citations (Scopus)


Beef samples originating from the major cattle producing regions of the world (Europe, USA, South America, Australia and New Zealand) have been analysed using IRMS and ICP-MS. C and N isotope composition of the beef defatted dry mass and H and O isotope composition of the corresponding lipid fractions were determined. It was observed that intensive maize and/or C4 pasture feeding, during cattle production, gave rise to significant differences in the 13C content of beef produced in Brazil and the USA versus British beef fed predominantly on C3 pasture and fodder. The mean δ2H‰ and δ18O‰ values of beef lipid correlated well with the latitude of production regions and the relationship between the H and O isotopic contents were found to parallel the Meteoric Water Line. These findings support the hypothesis that the systematic global variations in the 2H and 18O content of precipitation are transferred through drinking water and feed into beef lipid. Multi-element concentrations determined in the beef were combined with the stable isotope data and submitted to multivariate analysis. Six key variables (δ13C‰ (defatted dry mass), Sr, Fe, δ2H‰ (lipid), Rb and Se) were identified by canonical discriminant analysis as providing the maximum discrimination between beef samples on the basis of the broad geographical areas (Europe, South America and Australasia). It was concluded that the methodology in its current state can be used to provide reliable origin information, but this is dependent upon the countries under investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-515
Number of pages10
JournalFood Chemistry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes


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