Poultry Production Quality and Food Safety lab

The Poultry Production Quality and Food Safety laboratory operates in the context of the poultry production chains carrying out research activities connected to farming, processing, product quality and safety and to a lesser extent in the context of the analysis of other foods such as cheese, processed pork and fish products. It consists of two different areas whose characteristics are detailed below.

The ‘Poultry Production Quality’ area carries out research activities concerning:

• the influence of genetic, nutrition and feeding, farming and pre-slaughtering factors on production efficiency of poultry species, including nutritional and qualitative characteristics of meat and eggs;

• the study of the impact of management factors on the main welfare indicators of poultry species;

• the identification of nutritional strategies aimed at improving feed efficiency, production sustainability and gut health in broiler chicken and turkey;

• the evaluation of molecular mechanism involved in the phenotypical expression of production efficiency traits by applying omics technologies;

• the evaluation of innovative techniques for the early administration (in-ovo feeding e early-life nutrition) of nutrients aimed at improving health and productive efficiency in poultry;

• the characterisation of chemical composition and technological properties of eggs and poultry meat with particular regard to the evaluation of breast muscle abnormalities (PSE-like, Oregon disease, white-striping, wooden-breast and spaghetti-meat).

To carry out the research activities, the following facilities and equipment are available:

Experimental poultry houses for in-vivo trials
Activities: farming of broiler chicken and turkey in floor pens and of laying hen in enriched cages and outdoor pens according to the EU legislation in force on animal welfare for the investigation of nutritional, management, qualitative and microbiological traits.
Equipment: n. 40 floor pens of 2.5 sqm each equipped with feeders and nipples; n. 2 independent rooms equipped with 6 pens of 3 sqm each for the evaluation of environmental challenges trials; n. 4 independent rooms equipped with 6 pens each for the evaluation of microbiological challenges; n. 30 enriched cages for laying hen; n. 16 outdoor pens for chicken and laying hen; equipment for the control of environmental parameters; dedicated area and equipment for the experimental feed preparation.

Chemical lab
Activities: poultry meat, egg and fish sample preparation for the assessment of proximate composition, fatty acids, cholesterol, oxidative products and vitamins.
Equipment: Kjeldahl nitrogen digester and distiller, Soxhlet extractor, spectrophotometer, fume hoods, -20°C and -80°C freezer, muffle, thermostatic bath.

Functional properties lab
Activities: analysis of functional properties of meat (Texture profile analysis) and eggs, determination of mechanical strength of bones, egg shells, vitelline membrane.
Equipment: Instron texturometer, Minolta CR-300 colorimeter.

Chromatographic analysis lab
Activities: determination of fatty acid composition, cholesterol content, pro-vitamins and vitamins, pigments.
Equipment: gas chromatographs with FID detector (Shimadzu and Carlo Erba), HPLC with variable wavelength UV detectors, spectrofluorimeter, UV "diode array” (Shimadzu).

The Food Safety Laboratory (FSL) carries out research activities concerning:

• genetic traceability of bacteria responsible of human foodborne outbreak

• next Generation Sequencing techniques aimed to characterize the gut microbiota of animals and food product of animal origin

• study of transfer of bacterial pathogens from animals and foods to humans

• definition of food safety criteria, based on risk analysis, to be included in European legislation, in collaboration with European public and private research institutions.

The activities performed in the food safety laboratories, characterized by bio-safety level 2, includes:

Diagnostic bacteriology
Activities: Sample preparation, culture techniques in selective and non-selective media for the isolation and quantification of degrading microbial groups (total bacterial counts, lactic acid bacteria, Enterobacteria, etc.) and pathogenic bacteria (eg. Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Clostridium perfringens, etc).
Equipment: Bio-safety cabinet, incubators, CO2 incubators, stomakers, Pulsifier® (Microgen), colony counters, Aqua lab, pH meter.

Molecular probes and hybridization
Activities: extraction of DNA and RNA from animal and food samples; quantification of genetic material; preparation of molecular probes.
Equipment: Refrigerated ultracentrifuge, MagnaLyser (Roche), Biofluorimeter (Eppendorf), chemical hood.

Automatic ribotyping and Real time PCR
Activities: automatic ribotyping of foodborne bacteria, Real time PCR analysis.
Equipment: RiboPrinter Microbial Characterization (DuPont), 7500 Fast Applied Biosystems

Activity: Bacterial typing by pulsed field electrophoresis, qualitative PCR, horizontal electrophoresis, image analysis.
Equipment: PFGE (Biorad), Gel Doc (Biorad), classic and gradient thermocycler (Eppendorf), Bio-safety cabinet.

Media preparation
Activity: Preparation of culture media and broths as well as buffer solutions. Spectrophotometric evaluation of cell cultures. Preparation of gels for electrophoresis.
Equipment: Bio-safety cabinet, water bath, microwaves, hotplate and magnetic stirrer, spectrophotometer.

Sterilization and glassware washing
Activities: Sterilization of culture media and broths; sterilization of infected material; washing and preparing laboratory glassware; water purification.
Equipment: Autoclave, dry heat stove, water purification system.

Quality control
Activities: storage of bacterial strains in the collection at -70, -40 and -20°C and in liquid nitrogen; microscopic analysis in fluorescence and contrast phase.
Equipment: -70, -40, -20°C freezer, liquid nitrogen container, phase contrast and fluorescence microscope (Nikon).