The EU-funded MARKTHEPIG project is using pioneering genetic research techniques to uncover why particular physical traits occur in certain pigs. The project is expected to advance precision livestock breeding techniques and could lead to a more profitable yet sustainable EU pig-breeding sector.
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The escalating demand for food is accompanied by ever-growing pressures on resources, including land. At the same time, European consumers are increasingly embarking upon a quest for better-quality food, and particularly animal products.
Scientific advances to date have centred on technologies to further the study of genes (genomics) and related biological fields, including phenomics (the study of phenotypes, which are demonstrable traits such as hair or eye colour in an organism). Characteristics may be genetic, but may also be influenced by environmental factors.
The MARKTHEPIG project, funded through a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship, is using recent advances in these emergent biological fields to identify particular quality traits (phenotypes) and how they come about (genotypes). This will shed light on how the two types are linked, and enable the development of precision livestock techniques based on nurturing the presence of specific quality traits in pigs.
MARKTHEPIG will identify, detect and quantify potential biomarkers in pigs demonstrating desirable phenotypes. The aim is to characterise pig phenotypic diversity by integrating wide sets of data based on different sets of genes.
Initially the projects new techniques would be of significant value to both the pig-meat industry and consumer market. Later, such innovation could also be beneficial to other livestock production sectors.
Advances in precision livestock breeding could lead to the rearing of more robust and productive animals, thereby reducing the negative environmental impacts associated with the pig-production sector, improving its resource efficiency and increasing its sustainability and profitability.