Animal Breeding, Genetics, and Genomics

Dramatic improvements in yields of animal protein are crucial in meeting the ever-increasing food needs in the United States and around the world. NIFA provides national leadership and funding opportunities to conduct basic, applied, and integrated research in several areas of animal genetics. Our partners include scientists in universities and research organizations, food animal industries, and, of course, consumers.

General Information

The per capita U.S. consumption of beef, pork, broiler, and turkey meat combined has risen from about 127 pounds in 1950 to more than 220 pounds in 2007. Animal geneticists are helping farmers meet this demand with animals that are healthy and vigorous as they grow and reproduce and that use nutrients efficiently to produce adequate food and fiber for human consumption while minimizing environmental impacts. Genetic selection has increased the modern broiler chicken market weight by nearly 23 percent compared to the same bird in 1950. Such remarkable improvements in yields of animal protein are essential in meeting the ever-increasing food needs in the United States and around the world. However, genetic improvement under modern-day animal agriculture comes with its own complexities. Animal geneticists have discovered secrets in the genes over the past half century that enhance growth, animal health, and feed nutrient use. This can increase production while reducing excess nutrients escaping to the environment. Recent initiatives in animal genomics are directed toward deciphering the genetic code of food-producing animals. The resulting genomic technologies will enhance our efforts and expertise in identifying economically important genes and traits in livestock production.

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