Pork is big business for Canadian producers, both domestically and internationally. In Canada, it is the secondmost consumed meat. Globally, Canadian pork is exported to more than 100 countries and it is consumed throughout the world more than any other source of protein. Managing disease in pork populations is one of the most costly and difficult challenges for pork producers. In addition to its economic costs, disease likely contributes to public perceptions of animal products in terms of animal welfare, food safety and antimicrobial resistance. Genomics offers new ways to fight disease in pigs, reducing costs for producers, increasing product quality and improving public perceptions. This will become increasingly important as global demand for animal proteins rises in concert with growing populations.
Dr. Michael Dyck of the University of Alberta, Dr. John Harding of University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Bob Kemp of PigGen Canada Inc. are leading a team that will increase the international competitiveness of the Canadian pork industry and its contributions to global food safety and security. The team is developing genomics tools that Canadian genetic companies and breeders can use to select pigs that are more genetically resilient due to increased tolerance of and/or resistance to multiple diseases (as opposed to simply resistant to one particular disease). The tools will also permit producers to manage the nutritional content of pig feed to optimize pig health such that pigs stay healthier, grow more efficiently and have more successful litters and reduce the need for antibiotic use in pig production.
The involvement of industry partners in this project means that, within five years of its end, the rate of genetic improvement and productivity will have an impact on pig production of more than $137 million, further improving the international competitiveness of the Canadian pork industry.