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Gene Editing Aims to End Pig Castration

Recombinetics, a pioneer in gene editing in animal agriculture and human health, and DNA Genetics, a swine genetics supplier, are developing precision breeding technology that results in male piglets born naturally castrated (they remain in a prepubertal state their whole lives). This approach will eliminate the need for castration, either surgical or medical.

This breeding technology focuses on swine health and well-being while ensuring good meat quality, says Recombinetics. The companies will evaluate, develop, and commercialize the castration-free swine trait with the goal to get the technology into the hands of pork producers globally.

Male piglets used for pork production are routinely castrated to improve the quality of meat for consumers. Castration is used to avoid boar taint, an unpleasant odor and an unsavory taste, that affects the pork product’s marketability to consumers. Currently, castrations are performed surgically or by using immunology.

To determine the commercial viability of pigs bred to be castration-free, alliance researchers will evaluate findings to investigate feed efficiency, meat quality, and best practices for recovery of puberty and fertility. 

DNA Genetics, based in Columbus, Nebraska, will bring the castration-free trait to market.

“This specific project is an innovative use of precision breeding techniques that have the potential of improving both animal health and efficiency. We are pleased to be a part of making this technology available to the pork industry,” Tom Rathje, chief technical officer, DNA Genetics.

On December 14, 2017, The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research awarded a $500,000 grant to Recombinetics to use new techniques to breed swine that will eliminate the need for surgical castration. Additional funding is provided by The Open Philanthropy Project.

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