Multiple healthy litters of naturally castrated piglets developed through precision breeding

Male piglets are routinely castrated to improve the quality of meat for consumers by eliminating boar taint, an unpleasant odor, and unsavory taste. This practice is an animal well-being concern and is being banned in the European Union. In April 2018, pioneering companies in responsible farm animal breeding Recombinetics/Acceligen and Hendrix Genetics announced the “Alliance to End Surgical Castration of Swine” aiming to eliminate surgical castrations by developing precision breeding technology that results in male piglets born naturally castrated. Since then, the companies have combined commercially relevant swine genetics and Acceligen’s proprietary precision breeding methods to successfully develop multiple healthy litters of prototype piglets that are naturally castrated.

To determine the commercial viability of castration-free pigs, the alliance is developing best practices for recovery of puberty and fertility, without compromising traits like feed efficiency and meat quality. When commercialized, this resulting product will improve the well-being of swine, while ensuring excellent meat quality. The alliance is committed to making this technology available to pork producers worldwide.

Additional funding for the project’s preliminary research was made possible by a grant rewarded to Recombinetics from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR).

“This first litter of permanently pre-pubescent piglets is a huge success, said FFAR Executive Director Sally Rockey. “Not only does the industry benefit, but once this technology is deployed commercially, we can eliminate an animal welfare issue, while maintaining a quality product for consumers.”

Research is being led by Principal Investigator Tad Sonstegard, Ph.D., Chief Executive and Scientific Officer of Acceligen, Recombinetics’ agriculture division. Says Sonstegard, “The birth of these castration-free prototype piglets using commercially relevant genetics is just another example of how Acceligen is working to deploy our breeding technologies to help producers better meet the demands of consumers and producers to improve food animal well-being. The technical expertise and support provided by our industry partners and FFAR give our alliance the capability to meet these demands with the highest standards. Together we will bring the castration-free trait to market and provide solutions to benefit the pork industry,” said Sonstegard.

“At Hendrix Genetics, we are very excited about the birth of the first castration-free piglets. This is an important step to end one of the biggest concerns of the swine industry regarding animal well-being. Within Hypor, Hendrix Genetics’ swine business unit, we are continuously exploring new opportunities to support the pork value chain with innovative and sustainable genetic solutions,” said Luis Prieto Garcia, Managing Director Swine, Hendrix Genetics.