ISU Releases Pig Genetic Marker Technology

Genetic markers for growth, leanness and meat quality discovered at ISU are now available to all pork producers in the United States.

Genetic markers for growth, leanness and meat quality discovered at Iowa State University have been made available to pork producers in the United States.

"This offers a unique opportunity to use molecular genetics to improve pigs' growth, leanness, feed conversion and meat quality for all breeds typically seen in the U.S.," says Max Rothschild, a Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and director of the Center for Integrated Animal Genomics at ISU.

The Iowa State University Research Foundation has signed a licensing agreement with GeneSeek Inc. of Lincoln, Neb. The license permits GeneSeek to use the technologies as markers to identify hogs that have the potential to improve economics of hog producers operations' and enhance pork quality for the consumer.

Markers let you turn genetics on or off

- MC4R controls growth and leanness. The producer and breeder can choose the "fast" growth form of the gene, which cuts three days off the time it takes a pig to reach market weight, or the "lean/efficient growth" form of the gene, which reduces the pig's backfat and the amount of feed it eats.
- PRKAG3 controls meat composition. Producers and breeders can select for animals having a high pH, which improves quality, and better meat color.
- CAST affects meat tenderness and quality. Producers can test and select those animals that are likely to produce more tender meat and improved meat quality.
- HMGA1 is highly associated with backfat and lean growth. Producers can test and select animals that are likely to be leaner and produce offspring that are leaner.

These genes best used in combination

These genes are best used in combination, Rothschild says. Use of all four would be beneficial for overall line development to improve growth, leanness and meat quality. A combination of MC4R and HMGA1 could be used for growth and backfat improvement only, or MC4R and HMGA1 could be used together for significant leanness in breeding stock. Finally, PRKAG3 and CAST could be used in combination to improve meat quality.

He says breeders and pork producers should work together to develop the best multigene combination for their herds.

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