Thursday, May 13, 2010

Genetics of Pig Fatness

Mangalitsa loin

I found a new study today (abstract here) - and the full PDF here on the genetics of pig fatness.

What makes one pig breed different from another are the genes that members of one breed tend to have, as opposed to other breeds (or crossbreeds). Differences in genes can lead to differences in traits like fatness or marbling. When variance in the traits is primarily determined by genes, its possible to have some breeds that are markedly different from others.

The study includes a table that lists marbling (IMF) percentages for various breeds. Marbling is intramuscular fat, a desirable trait. I was happy to see that the Mangalitsa has the most marbling of all pig breeds studied.

Of the meat-type breeds, Durocs have the most marbling. The study says they have marbling of around 3%.

Iberico breeds have marbling of around 6%, approximately double that of the Durocs.

Mangalitsa pigs have marbling that is 25% greater than that of the Iberico breeds, 7.5% -- and the highest marbling of all pig breeds studied. This is why Mangalitsa pigs can outperform Iberico pigs. The Hungarian breeders who created the Mangalitsa really did create the most fat prone pigs.

Mangalitsas have 2.5 times more marbling than the best marbled meat-type pigs, the Durocs. Again, Mangalitsa pigs belong in their own category.

Most of the super-marbled Mangalitsas I've seen have been old and fat. Also, it is possible to do a lot better than the 7.5% IMF listed in the chart - as this study showed, some Mangalitsa pigs have IMF of 11.8%!