Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 378, Issue 2, pp 301–310 | Cite as

Stable isotope variation as a tool to trace the authenticity of beef

  • M. BonerEmail author
  • H. Förstel
Original Paper


Organic beef coming principally from Germany was analysed for the hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur stable isotopic composition to test the possibility of tracing back the geographical origin. Since there is a well-known pattern of D/H and 18O/16O in meteoric water and in ground water, there is an existing link to tissue water in the beef. By including the stable isotope ratios of the other elements of life further information is available: soils show different isotope ratios of 15N/14N and 34S/32S depending on the geological composition, cultivation and atmospheric sulfur deposition. As organic farming is mainly obliged to use only their produced fodder, that ratio is reflected in the beef as well.

Different organic beef samples from various German farms have been collected and analysed over nearly two years. To check the differentiation of foreign beef, samples from Argentina and Chile were also included in the study. The analyses of meat samples indicate that it is possible to trace back the region (e.g. Argentina and Germany) by using isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen. A local geographical differentiation can be done by using the stable isotopes of nitrogen and sulfur, as was demonstrated for three farms in Colonia Bay. An optimal differentiation also depends on the quality of further information (e.g. the season, kind of cattle breeding or the declaration of the local geographical origin). Certainly authenticity of beef is not only linked with the geographical origin but can also reflect the differentiation of organic and conventional farming. The fodder of organic cattle farming consists mainly of C3 plants and the use of C4 plants is more usual in conventional cattle farming. A 13C/12C ratio above −20‰ appears as a limit for organic farming. Increased values have to be controlled based on their authenticity.


Stable isotope Beef Authenticity Organic farming Origin Traceability 


  1. 1.
    Krouse HR (1984) Geochim Cosmochim Acta 48:187–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    DeNiro MJ, Epstein S (1977) Science 15:261–263Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Steele KW, Daniel RM (1978) J Agric Science 90:7–9Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Holbach B, Förstel H, Otteneder H, Hützen H (1994) Z Lebensm Unters Forsch 198:223–229Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Manca G, Gamin F, Coloru GC, Del Caro A (2001) J Agric Food Chem 49:1404–1409CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Rossmann A, Haberhauer G, Hölzl S, Horn P, Pichlmayer F, Voerkelius S (2000) Eur Food Res Technol 211:32–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Houerou G, Kelly SD, Dennis MJ (1999) Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom 13:1257–1262CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Piasentier E, Valusso R, Camin F, Versini G (2003) Meat Science 64:239–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kornexl BE, Werner T, Rossmann A, Schmidt HL (1997) Z Lebensm Unters Forsch 2005:19–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dansgaard W (1964) Tellus 16:436–467Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Longinelli A, Peretti P (1980) Mass Spectr Bioch Med Envir Res 1:135–139Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Craig H (1961) Science 133:1702–1703Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dunbar J, Wilson AT (1983) Plant Physiol 72:725–727Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Förstel H, Hützen H (1984) Nature 303:614–616Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    IAEA (1983) Technical Rep Ser No 226Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    IAEA (1986) Technical Rep Ser No 264Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Jones RJ, Ludlow MM, Throughton JH, Blunt CG (1981) Search 12:85–87Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    DeNiro MJ, Epstein S (1978) Geochim Cosmochim Acta 42:495–506Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Förstel H (1978) Rad Environ Biophys 15:323–344Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Dongmann G, Nürnberg H W (1974) Radiation Environ Biophys 11:41–52Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kirchgeßner M (1997) Tiernährung DLG-Verlags-GmbHGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hegerding L, Seidler D, Danneel H-J, Gessles A, Nowak B (2002) Fleischwirtschaft 4:95–100Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Bryant JD, Froehlich PN (1995) Geochim Cosmochim Acta 21:4523–4537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Schoeller DA, Leitch CA, Brown C (1986) Am J Physiol 251:R1137–R1143PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Longinelli A (1984) Geochim Cosmochim Acta 48:385–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Tieszen LL, Boutton TW, Tesdahl KG, Slade NA (1983) Oecologia 57:32–37Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Rees CE, Jenkins WJ, Monster J (1978) Geochim Cosmochim Acta 4:377–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Shearer GB, Kohl DH, Commoner B (1974) Soil Sci 118:308–314Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    DeNiro MJ, Epstein S (1981) Geochim Cosmochim Acta 45:341–351Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center JülichGermany

Personalised recommendations