Culture Award for the Scientific Method for Identification of Meat

What is really in our body? This question was asked by Lucas Hafner from the Bamberg region of the Coburg University of Applied Sciences. As part of his master’s thesis, he wanted to find out how we can differentiate between the different types of poultry. “It may be that you are buying a piece of meat that has been completely replaced by another,” says biological analyst Lukas Häfner. “It is also possible to buy a product that has been partially replaced by a cheaper type of meat.” According to the 30-year-old scientist, the method was developed to counteract this fraud.

The research project lasted nearly two years

Lukas Häfner has been researching different types of poultry in the laboratory for over a year and a half. In the complex method of differentiating poultry, the proteins in meat are broken down into smaller elements, known as peptides, using enzymes. “Other laboratories have previously developed methods by which, for example, chicken can be distinguished from pork, but there has never been a focus on being able to distinguish closely related types of poultry,” explains Lukas Häfner. This is also one of the difficulties with this method. Signs had to be found that could still reliably distinguish these closely related species, Hefner says.

Mass spectrometry aids in research

After a few days, Lukas Häfner puts peptide solutions from different types of poultry into the mass spectrometer. The device measures the mass of molecules and uses it to identify the molecule involved. Lucas Haffner explains that the mass spectrometer is set up in such a way that it looks for specific peptides found in different types of poultry. However, only ever in one type of poultry. “This means that if we find peptides that are only found in chicken, it is because the sample contains chicken,” says the bioanalyst.

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A scientist was awarded the Bavarian Culture Prize for Method

As part of his master’s thesis, Lukas Häfner found peptides found in different types of poultry and could distinguish them using graphs. The bioanalyzer compares the plots of samples on a computer. Based on the rash, he can tell if other types of poultry have been added to the types of poultry. This year, Lukas Häfner and the Coburg University of Applied Sciences were awarded the Bavarian Culture Prize in the Science category from the Federal Ministry of Culture and the State Ministry of Culture for this detailed master’s thesis.

Lucas Hefner is conducting further research as part of his PhD thesis

Once approved, the newly developed method can be used by food control authorities in the future to test poultry in commerce. Lukas Häfner is now conducting research at the Max Rubner Institute in Kulmbach. There the 30-year-old is writing his doctoral thesis on a new method: by which he wants to be able to differentiate between meat-containing foods, plant-based foods, and plant-based foods.

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