Traditional pig breeds could boost pork industry's sustainability

An EU-funded project has researched lesser-known and not industrially farmed pig breeds in a bid to help Europe's pork industry diversify and become more sustainable. This could help save endangered breeds, benefit the environment and result in new, high-quality meat options for consumers.

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  Benin
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  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


 

Published: 4 September 2019  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Agriculture & foodAgriculture  |  Animal health and welfare
Environment
Industrial researchIndustrial processes & robotics  |  Materials & products
Research policyHorizon 2020
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Croatia  |  France  |  Germany  |  Italy  |  Lithuania  |  Portugal  |  Serbia  |  Slovenia  |  Spain
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Traditional pig breeds could boost pork industry's sustainability

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© bernardbodo, #85795899, source: stock.adobe.com 2019

From sausages to chops, pork is the most consumed meat in the world. This means that pig farming in Europe is big business. However, to ensure its future sustainability, the industry needs to address crucial issues including environmental protection, animal welfare, its public image and availability of land for production.

One way of doing this is exploring heritage pig breeds that are not industrially reared. Currently, the dominance of large-scale, profit-driven pig farming has meant that over 95 % of European pork production revolves around a few breeds. Meanwhile, many traditional breeds have been abandoned and are now endangered.

In an effort to bring about change, the EU-funded TREASURE project researched 20 local European pig breeds. These included more well-known ones such as the Iberian in Spain or the Mangalitsa in Serbia, as well as lesser known breeds like the Krškopolje pig in Slovenia, the Moravka in Serbia, the Gascon in France and the Cinta Senese in Italy.

‘Driven only by agricultural outputs and economic efficiency, the current food system has become unsustainable and pork production is no exception,’ says TREASURE project coordinator Marjeta ÄŒandek-Potokar, research scientist at the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia. ‘Diversifying breeds and managing them correctly could help address the challenges of future pig production. TREASURE is taking the first step in this direction by studying uncommon breeds in more detail than ever before.’

Genetics and diet

The project compiled data that can help conserve and boost the use of different indigenous pig populations. It uncovered the genomic information of all the pig breeds it studied to understand their structure and diversity, and to help prevent inbreeding. It also put together details on endangered breeds, dietary needs, locally available feed resources, pig welfare needs, traditional animal management techniques, emissions from grazing, manure management practices and local pig product recipes using local breeds.

TREASURE studied the environmental impact of production systems involving three model breeds – the Gascon, the Mora Romagnola and the Krškopolje pig – and analysed how to make them greener. For example, a farm’s ecological footprint can be lower when pig feed is produced by the farm itself.

The project developed and rediscovered high-quality pork products and researched potential innovations for enhancing their health benefits, such as reducing salt content, shortening meat smoking times, and reducing the use of nitrites.

According to TREASURE researchers, the Iberian pig is a good example of how a less efficient traditional breed can be used for a high-end, popular product like jamon iberico, while preserving production techniques and more sustainable practices.

Consumer image

TREASURE researched how pork products are viewed by consumers. It found that information such as meat quality, sustainable rearing methods, good animal welfare, and preserving local tradition and economies is important to people.

‘Our assessment of consumer acceptability of traditional and innovative-traditional pork products from little-known local breeds across Europe will help pork producers develop the products and marketing strategies for high-quality pork products,’ says ÄŒandek-Potokar.

The project also designed a strategy for a European trademark to distinguish local, non-industrialised pig breeds, providing strong branding.

According to TREASURE, pig production systems of the future should be in line with available natural resources while focused on providing high-quality food products.

Project details

  • Project acronym: TREASURE
  • Participants: Slovenia (Coordinator), France, Germany, Croatia, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia, Spain
  • Project N°: 634476
  • Total costs: € 3 395 987
  • EU contribution: € 3 395 987
  • Duration: April 2015 to March 2019

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