China pig farms go high-tech for self-sufficiency

STORY: Chinese pigs are going high-tech.

Or at least so is the effort to breed them.

Around 100 farms there have enrolled in a state-led bid to improve the genetics of China’s hog herd.

It’s part of a drive to hit self-sufficiency for the world’s top consumer of pork, and deliver cheaper meat for consumers.

The aim is to develop pigs that grow faster, need less feed, and produce bigger litters.

BGG in Inner Mongolia is among the farms taking part.

Head breeder Hao Wenjie says breeding from foreign hogs isn’t always right for China:

"Europeans may decide this type of pig is the best according to their eating habits, understanding of pigs and market conditions. However, this type of pig may not necessarily be the best in China, because our food culture and environment are not the same, so our definition of a good pig is also different.”

Raising a pig in China costs about two-and-a-half times as much as in the U.S.

That’s due to costly imported feed and high levels of disease.

Genetic improvements are thus in big demand, but Chinese farms have lacked the data analysis skills required.

Now Netherlands-based genetics consultant Jan Merks is among those stepping in to help:

"People working in the sector have very little experience because they have been working there just for a few years. And that's, I think for me and other Western concerns, is the big difference -- we can bring many years of experience.”

BGG, for one, is now collecting reams of data on its pigs, including litter size, loin depth and daily weight gain.

It’s managed to increase litter sizes as a result.

With China producing almost 700 million hogs per year, there’s a lot riding on the project’s success.

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