Breeding companies to select for welfare and environmental factors?

UK - Since animal welfare and protecting the environment are now such major concerns to the general public, some means of addressing these issues may have to be incorporated in future selection programmes by pig breeding companies, even though they have no direct economic importance, says an ACMC scientist.
calendar icon 13 June 2006
clock icon 3 minute read

ACMC animal scientist Lucy Campbell.
This is the view of Lucy Campbell, animal scientist with Yorkshire-based pig genetics company ACMC, who points out that supermarkets are already using welfare as an area where they can have a competitive edge over their rivals.

Commenting on an article in the Journal of Animal Science,* she said: "Since such traits have no direct economic value some would question whether taking them into account is worthwhile. However, although not currently economically efficient, reducing the detrimental effect pigs have on the environment or improving the welfare of animals should not be ignored."

But one of the difficulties of applying non-economic traits is their inability to be quantified easily. "Finding out how much more value pork from pigs with better welfare or health is not as easy as asking how much more consumers will pay," she pointed out.

The practicality of breeding companies selecting for traits, whose heritability and genetic variances may be fairly low, may be difficult and subjective, but behavioural traits in other species, such as feather-pecking, have been found to be heritable.

"With public concerns regarding animal welfare and the environment growing, and with continual legislation changes, these so-called 'societally-important' traits may become increasingly relevant and could potentially become as important as growth rate in terms of selection traits," she predicted.

*Breeding for societally-important traits in pigs. E Kanis, K H De Greef, A Hienmstra & JAM van Artendonk, J. Anim Sci 20-5 83: 948-957
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