Lean meat gene tightens progenys grading profile

21 July 2000

Lean meat gene tightens progenys grading profile

By Marianne Curtis

A NEW gene discovered by a pig breeding company will eliminate the worst 25% conformation animals from herds using boars containing it.

But, the gene may have less impact in the UK than on the Continent, where payment schemes reward lean meat percentage.

Semen from boars containing the gene, known as Bettergenmuscle+, will be available from Belgian company Seghersgenetics in September, says marketing manager Philip Blair.

"The gene should reduce backfat thickness by 2.4mm, increase ham percentage by 0.6%, loin percentage by 1% and percentage lean cuts by 0.8%. But the key benefit is that it will tighten the grading profile of progeny, minimising numbers of pigs falling into lower grade categories."

The gene is only effective when inherited from the boar, so the effect on progeny will be the same regardless of the sows genetic makeup, says the companys molecular geneticist, Nadine Buys.

"This is known as paternal imprinting, so if the boar possesses two copies of the gene – as our boars do – it will be expressed in all his progeny."

Another benefit of the gene, especially for those producing for Continental markets, is that it offers an alternative to the stress gene, well known for its ability to produce extreme meatiness, but also for its sometimes negative effect on meat eating quality, says Dr Buys.

"This gene produces animals with muscling which is comparable with pigs containing the stress gene. Also it has no negative effects on growth rate, or meat pH, an indicator of meat quality."

Whether the gene will become popular in the UK remains to be seen, as boars containing it are aimed at the German market, says Mr Blair.

"The German market demands extreme lean meat building characteristics and maximum slaughter pig uniformity, which our Extremus and Maximus boars are aimed at."

Extremus contains both the Bettergen muscle+ and stress genes, giving it the maximum lean meat potential whereas Maximus is stress negative.

The companys Optimus boar is also stress negative, but more emphasis is placed on growth rate, making it more suitable for the UK market. It does not contain the muscle+ gene, but that may change in future, says Mr Blair.

"We will look to introduce the gene into more of our boar lines." &#42

A genetic marker contained in some boars will lead to more even progeny, says geneticist Nadine Buys.

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