An Australian syndicate of chicken buyers spent more than $500,000 and a decade planning to import rare European breeds only to see all 4000 of the birds destroyed in quarantine on Friday.

It was believed to be the first importation of pure-breed poultry to Australia in 70 years. But the federal Agriculture Department issued a destruction order after one chick tested positive for salmonella.

After the group dropped a costly federal court injunction on Friday, the birds - which had hatched while being quarantined in May - were destroyed in South Australia.

A Melbourne restaurateur said he planned to raise chicks from the famous Bresse breed and sell them for about $40. High quality birds now sell for about $9.

Syndicate co-ordinator Meredith Parker said Australian chicken blood lines have become inbred and impure.

A spokesperson for the Agriculture Department said the strain of salmonella was a significant risk to Australia's $2.5 billion poultry industry.