Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Department name when degree awarded

Nutrition and Food Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Arthur W. Mahoney


Arthur W. Mahoney


Charles E. Carpenter


Dr. Hendricks


Dr. Cornforth


Dr. Aust


Dr. Mendenhall


This research project was divided into three parts. In the first part, heme, nonheme, and total iron methodologies for meats were evaluated. The accuracy, precision, and specificity of each method were determined by spike recoveries of heme and nonheme iron, and by analysis of National Institute of Science and Technology standard reference materials. The most reliable and practical methods were then used to determine the total, nonheme, and heme iron contents of various meats before and after cooking. The meats analyzed were beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and turkey. The wet-ashing technique was a novel procedure in which nitric acid was used to digest most of the solids followed by peroxy-monosulfuric acid to complete the digestion. Total iron values of the meats were consistent with those previously reported, but the percentage of heme iron in red meats was much greater than commonly assumed, both before and after cooking.

In the second part, the distribution of heme and total iron in heat-processed poultry products was investigated using light and dark chicken meat in the form of deep-flied chicken breasts and legs purchased from fast food restaurants and grocery stores in a ready-to-eat condition. Heme and total iron values were 1.7 ± 0.5 and 6.5 ± 2.0 μg Fe/g meat for light chicken meat and 7.6 ± 1.6 and 19.3 ± 2.2 μg Fe/g for dark chicken meat. Percent heme iron values averaged 29 and 40% for light and dark chicken meat, respectively.

In the third and final part, an application for the heme and nonheme iron data assembled above was developed to give dieticians an important tool in dietary formulations designed to maintain iron homeostasis. From the data it is evident that cooked light chicken meat, taken from the breast, would provide the lowest quantity of absorbable iron among the meats investigated and that ground beef, highest in heme iron, would provide the greatest quantity of bioavailable iron.

Additional research was performed on processed beef products. Cooked ground beef, frankfurters, beef steak, and roast beef were analyzed for heme and total iron. The different beef products contained similar amounts of total iron, 31.4 to 34.2 μg/g, but the heme iron content ranged from 6.2 μg/g in frankfurters to 36.3 μg/g in beef steak. Percent heme iron ranged from 33.0 to 63.8% in all meats. Total iron, heme iron, and percent heme iron varied significantly (P < 0.01) among meats, sources, and preparations. This research was published and has been reproduced in Appendix F.