Triennial growth and development symposium: Genetics and breeding for intramuscular fat and oleic acid content in pigs

J. Estany*, R. Ros-Freixedes, M. Tor, R. N. Pena

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The intramuscular fat (IMF) and oleic acid (OL) content have been favorably related to pork quality and human health. This influences the purchasing behavior of consumers and, therefore, also shifts the attention of breeding companies toward whether these traits are included into the breeding goal of the lines producing for high-valued markets. Because IMF and OL are unfavorably associated with lean content, a key economic trait, the real challenge for the industry is not simply to increase IMF and OL, but rather to come up with the right trade-off between them and lean content. In this paper we review the efforts performed to genetically improve IMF and OL, with particular reference to the research we conducted in a Duroc line aimed at producing high quality fresh and dry-cured pork products. Based on this research, we conclude that there are selection strategies that lead to response scenarios where IMF, OL, and lean content can be simultaneously improved. Such scenarios involve regular recording of IMF and OL, so that developing a cost-efficient phenotyping system for these traits is paramount. With the economic benefits of genomic selection needing further assessment in pigs, selection on a combination of pedigree-connected phenotypes and genotypes from a panel of selected genetic markers is presented as a suitable alternative. Evidence is provided supporting that at least a polymorphism in the leptin receptor and another in the stearoyl-CoA desaturase genes should be in that panel. Selection for IMF and OL results in an opportunity cost on lean growth. The extent to which it is affordable relies on the con-sumers’ willingness to pay for premium products and on the cost to benefit ratio of alternative management strategies, such as specific dietary manipulations. How the genotype can influence the effect of the diet on IMF and OL remains a topic for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2261-2271
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2017
EventTriennial Growth and Development Symposium - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: 23 Jul 201623 Jul 2016


  • Growth
  • LEPR
  • Meat quality
  • Pork
  • SCD
  • Selection


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