Domestic Swine Genome Unlocked with Pork Checkoff Investment

Monday, Nov 02, 2009 – After years of work by a team of international researchers, the genetic code for domestic swine has been uncovered, which should lead to a host of new insights in agriculture, medicine, conservation and evolution. The milestone achievement, announced today at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, in Hinxton, England, cost about $24.3 million, including a $10-million investment from the U.S. Department Agriculture and $750,000 from the Pork Checkoff.

“This exciting scientific breakthrough can lead to new research applications and innovations at many points in the pork chain, and it’s one that the Pork Checkoff is proud to have helped fund,” said Everett Forkner, a Richards, Mo., pork producer and member of the National Pork Board.

The sequencing project was a collaborative effort involving an international team of scientists and genome sequencing centers. The draft sequence, which used a Duroc pig from the University of Illinois, will allow researchers to pinpoint genes that are useful to pork production or are involved in immunity or other important physiological processes in the pig. It will enhance breeding practices, offer insight into swine disease and assist in the preservation of the global heritage of rare, endangered and wild pigs. The findings also will be important for the study of human health, as pigs are very similar to humans in their physiology, behavior and nutritional needs.

“This is a great day for the pig research community,” said professor Alan Archibald, of the Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS at the University of Edinburgh. “When we launched the international pig-gene mapping project almost 20 years ago, few, if any of us thought a pig genome sequence was attainable or affordable.”

Larry Schook, a University of Illinois professor of biomedical sciences and leader of the sequencing project, said, “The pig is a unique animal that is important for food and that is used as an animal model for human disease. And because the native wild animals are still in existence, it is a really exciting animal to look at to learn about the genomic effects of domestication.”

National Pork Board CEO, Chris Novak, said, “Research is an important part of the mission of the Pork Checkoff. All U.S. pork producers should be proud of their contribution to this ground-breaking research that is expected to yield dividends for both producers and consumers. Unlocking the secrets of the pig’s genetic code should help secure a brighter future for all pork producers at the same time it is offering insights into human health. That’s a victory for everybody.”

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Pork Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in consumer education and marketing, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, science and technology, swine health, pork safety, and environmental management and sustainability. For the past half century, the U.S. pork industry has delivered on its commitment to sustainable production and has made significant strides in reducing the environmental impact of pig farming. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or visit