• By The Financial District

China Goes High-Tech To Produce Better Pig Breeds

Tiny slivers of ear tissue snipped from hours-old piglets offer valuable clues for the team at Best Genetics Group (BGG) as it strives to improve the genetics of China's hog herd to produce cheaper meat for the world's top pork consumer, Dominique Patton reported for Reuters.


Photo Insert: Big, listed hog producers who started breeding programs in recent years may be best placed to invest the large sums needed to compete with international companies.



Breeding pigs that have larger litters, reach slaughter weight quicker and require less feed can make a big difference in a market producing almost 700 million hogs a year. BGG is among about 100 farms enrolled in just such a state-led endeavor to wean China off imported stock and breed a self-sustaining herd to feed its 1.4 billion people.


China has the world's biggest hog herd but relies heavily on imports for breeding material, more so after the African swine fever virus in 2018-2019 decimated its pig population and wiped out much of its breeding pool.



Raising a pig in China costs about 2.5 times more than in the US due to costly imported feed and high levels of disease. Genetic improvements for cheaper meat are thus in high demand. But so far international companies have been better at this.


"We must insist on our own independent breeding," Hao Wenjie, BGG's head breeder, told Reuters at one of its farms that lies about 30 km (18.64 miles) outside the small city of Chifeng in northern China's remote Inner Mongolia region.


All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

Still, business has suffered amid recent huge losses at pig producers, BGG founder Monita Mo said. China's hog producers have endured record losses due to surging feed costs and weak demand amid COVID.


Another firm’s breeding farm has been asked by its management to cut back on genomic selection to cut costs. China has too many small breeding farms, said Fu Yan, professor of genetics at Zhejiang University.


Market & economy: Market economist in suit and tie reading reports and analysing charts in the office located in the financial district.

Big, listed hog producers who started breeding programs in recent years may be best placed to invest the large sums needed to compete with international companies, he added.


On China's push to improve the genetics of native pigs, some experts warn they are already so far behind that it detracts from efforts underway on imported breeds. China's Meishan pig is renowned for its large litters, but it and dozens of others grow slowly and are too fatty.


"It takes about one year for the animal to grow to 100kg. We tried to create a local breed that can grow in 8-9 months but it's not that consistent yet," Mo said.



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