Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

New Report Unveils Domestic Pig Genome

Scientists from over forty countries collaborated on a project to decode the genome of a common domestic pig breed.

A pig, just woken from a nap in the sun, smiles at the camera from atop a bed of twigs and dirt.

Photo: me'nthedogs (Flickr)

Swine species originated in Southeast Asia millions of years ago.

Cracking The Gene Code

Last week, an international group of scientists called the Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium published its analysis of the genome of a domestic pig.

The new knowledge may have big impacts on both pig and human health.

And, yes, the taste and quality of bacon and other pork products may be soon improving, too.

People Aren’t Pigs, But There Are Similarities

Having charted all of a female Sus scrofa domesticus’ (a common domestic pig breed) 21,000 genes, and having compared the results to the genomes of other animals like humans and mice, scientists hope to better utilize swine for biomedical research.

Already, molecular disruptions mirroring those in humans linked to specific diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s have been identified.

The research will also enlighten future attempts to transplant genetically modified pig organs in humans.

What About The Bacon?

And what are the implications for bacon, sausage and pork chops?

With a genome map in hand, pig farmers will be able to identify which genes correspond to leaner, more flavorful and better-colored meat, and then breed accordingly.

Above all, though, pig farmers want to ensure their animals remain in good health until slaughter. This means breeding for resistance to diseases like Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV) — which costs pork producers some $660 million annually — is a top priority.

Read More:

  • Analyses Of Pig Genomes Provide Insight Into Porcine Demography And Evolution (Nature)
  • Pig Genome Project May Pave The Way For Better Bacon (NPR)
  • Pig Genome Could Save Our Bacon (BBSRC)
  • Pig Genome Sequenced, Scientists Bring Home Bacon (International Business Times)
Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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