Breeding for societally-important traits in pigs

E. Kanis, K.H. de Greef, A. Hiemstra, J.A.M. van Arendonk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


Pig breeding programs traditionally focus on the genetic improvement of production and reproduction traits that have a clear economic value. Because citizens and consumers increasingly attach value to traits that have little or no direct relationship to production costs or to the price of a product, pig breeding organizations want to pay more attention to societally important traits, such as the welfare and health of pigs, the ecological effects of pork production, and the healthiness and sensory quality of pork. Most societally important traits have an economic and a noneconomic value and are sufficiently heritable for effective genetic selection, although many genetic and phenotypic (co)-variances still have to be estimated. However, it often is not clear to a pig breeding organization how it may deal with the noneconomic value of breeding-goal traits. In this study, a retrospective selection-index method is proposed to obtain the proper weights for societally important traits in the breeding goal. First, the genetic-progress space for each breeding-goal trait is explored by increasing the weights, in a stepwise manner, to each societally important trait in the breeding goal, starting from zero. Subsequently, a pig breeding organization can adopt the resulting genetic-progress scenario that it considers most sustainable or most acceptable. The weights underlying the adopted scenario are considered to be the proper breeding-goal weights. The noneconomic value of each societally important breeding-goal trait is found by deducting its economic value from its obtained weight and is thereby expressed in monetary units. In addition to obtaining weights for societally important breeding-goal traits, the proposed method offers the possibility to estimate the societal costs of selecting for economic traits only, as well as the societal benefits and the economic costs of selecting for traits with a noneconomic value. The method is therefore a useful tool for the development of sustainable breeding goals. An example has been worked out for a sow-line breeding program
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)948-957
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • meat quality
  • economic values
  • pork
  • selection
  • heritability
  • definition
  • resistance
  • efficiency
  • behavior
  • welfare


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