Gene Editing And Pig Castration

Male piglets used for pork production are routinely castrated to improve the quality of meat for consumers. Castration gets rid of boar taint, an unpleasant odor and unsavory taste in the meat. For decades, castration has been done surgically. But new breeding technology can produce male piglets that never reach puberty.

Tad Sonstegard is the chief scientific officer of Acceligen, a company that focuses on genetic improvement in food animals. He says these piglets will come from the company DNA Genetics.

"Those males will have had to have been rescued from being infertile, and then they would just breed sows that also had been rescued and the offspring between the breeding of those two rescued genetic lines would result in sterile males and females, we believe," he says. "Those are what would be sold from the multiplier sites out to the swine producers."

The technology will make a piglet’s life a little easier – and the producer’s as well.

"The stress that probably takes place with surgical castration, there’s no risk of any infections because you’re not doing that intervention anymore. And any stress that’s associated with that, that may offset a piglet and give it some disadvantage, would also be removed from the equation," says Sonstegard. "I know that physical castration’s been going on for decades, but it’s just one less thing that the producer would have to worry about."

Sonstegard says the process is still in the laboratory phase, along with studies on how it would affect feed efficiency and carcass quality.

Read more about pig castration through gene editing