Evaluation of the sustainability of contrasted pig farming systems: Breeding programmes

L. Rydhmer*, J.L. Gourdine, K. De Greef, M. Bonneau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


The sustainability of breeding activities in 15 pig farming systems in five European countries was evaluated. One conventional and two differentiated systems per country were studied. The Conventional systems were the standard systems in their countries. The differentiated systems were of three categories: Adapted Conventional with focus on animal welfare, meat quality or environment (five systems); Traditional with local breeds in small-scale production (three systems) and Organic (two systems). Data were collected with a questionnaire from nine breeding organisations providing animals and semen to the studied farming systems and from, on average, five farmers per farming system. The sustainability assessment of breeding activities was performed in four dimensions. The first dimension described whether the market for the product was well defined, and whether the breeding goal reflected the farming system and the farmers' demands. The second dimension described recording and selection procedures, together with genetic change in traits that were important in the system. The third dimension described genetic variation, both within and between pig breeds. The fourth dimension described the management of the breeding organisation, including communication, transparency, and technical and human resources. The results show substantial differences in the sustainability of breeding activities, both between farming systems within the same category and between different categories of farming systems. The breeding activities are assessed to be more sustainable for conventional systems than for differentiated systems in three of the four dimensions. In most differentiated farming systems, breeding goals are not related to the system, as these systems use the same genetic material as conventional systems. The breeds used in Traditional farming systems are important for genetic biodiversity, but the small scale of these systems renders them vulnerable. It is hoped that, by reflecting on different aspects of sustainability, this study will encourage sustainable developments in pig production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2016-2026
Number of pages11
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2014


  • assessment
  • genetic resources
  • pigs
  • sustainable production


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