To some genetic modification of our food is bad and to others it is simply a way to improve it.
A farmer in South Australia has been doing some modification of his pigs lately. He is not doing it in some lab but in his farm. So is genetic modification good or bad?
What has he done that is so amazing?
He now has longer pigs.
So why is that a big deal? Longer pigs means more ribs, and that means he is better able to meet an increasing demand for ribs in restaurants.
So how has he done it? By selectively breeding sows with more ribs. Apparently pigs can have 13 ribs or 17, so by only breeding the 17 rib pigs, Jeff Braun, from South Australia, has dramatically increased the value of his animals.
By making the pigs longer and hence bigger, he has also increased the size of each sow’s udder and the percentage of meat yield. So what,huh?
Well, that has allowed for a dramatic 30 percent increase in the udder capacity allowing for a dramatic increase in the size of each of the litters that are now being produced.
Mr Braun said; “A sow has double the butter fat and double the milk solids in its milk compared to a dairy cow and when we look at the 21-day litter weights we are now achieving, it has to produce more milk solids in a day than the best dairy cows in the world.”
The average weight of a litter after 21 days is 80kgs in Europe, Mr Braun is achieving 100 kg consistently, through his genetic program and by providing a perfect environment. Each of Mr Braun’s pigs are reaching weights of more than 100 kg each within 16 weeks, which is amongst the highest growth rates in the world. All by genetic engineering, and the perfect environment.
This has been a project in development for three decades and is focused not only on improving yield in meat, litters and, of course, ribs, but in creating an environment that allows the sows to have natural behaviours.
Mr Braun said; “The plan has all been undertaken to minimise stress and to understand the animals’ needs. It’s all straw-based systems where the sows will have the ability to conduct natural behaviours of eating straw, digging, rooting in the stall, within a couple of degrees of set temperature.”
There is a perception out there that farmers are more interested in making money that their animals welfare. The work done by this farmer shows that this is not the case at all.
As Jeff Braun says “Experience has certainly told us, as farmers, that the more we give to our animal and the more we understand our animal … the more it’s going to give back to us. It gives me great pleasure to be able to observe my stock and look at the contentment – and then see the productivity responses we get.”
Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.