In this study, a convenient, sensitive and specific real-time PCR assay was described for the species identification and their quantification in raw and cooked meat products. Specific primers and TaqMan probes were designed on the mitochondrial ND2, ND5 and ATP 6-8 genes for donkey, pork and horse, respectively, and the performance of the method was tested. In the results, no cross-reaction was observed between the donkey and pork species specific primer-probe systems and non-target species (bovine, ovine, chicken and turkey). Only one cross reaction was observed between the horse species specific primer-probe set and 100 ng pork DNA at the ct 33.01 level (corresponding to 0.01 ng horse DNA). The real-time quantitative assay used in this study allowed the detection of as little as 0.0001 ng template DNA from pure meat for each species investigated and experimental meat mixtures. In conclusion, it can be suggested that the TaqMan probe assay used in this research might be a rapid and sensitive method for the routine meat species identifications studies in raw or cooked meat products. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.