Designer Pigs

Open Scapula Bone

There is a certain advantage to being both the farmer, the herd geneticist and the butcher on our farm because I get to intimately know our pigs inside and out. For 13 years I’ve been doing intensive traditional selective breeding of our herd lines. Because so many pigs flow through my fingers and I only keep about 5% as breeders I have been able to make significant improvements in the gene pool generation after generation. Pigs are a very plastic animals, quickly reproducing, fast maturing and giving large numbers of offspring. In other words, a dream candidate for eugenics.

The bone in my hand above is the scapula, the shoulder blade. Each week I take pigs apart, examining their engineering, support structures, muscles, marbling, bones and more. This is called butchering or meat cutting but there is more than meets the eye… The scapula has a very convoluted shape that makes deboning difficult. Now that I’m getting to intimately know the internal traits of my various lines and breeds I can start selecting for pigs that look more like the bone above, straight up and easier to work on, and less like the blue outline that shows how most pig scapulas are shaped. Blue line pigs are slower to take apart since I work primarily with the knife and use the saw very little.

Ben and I joked that eventually we’ll get the pigs to be like rabbits where you just shake them and they come out of their skin and all the cuts neatly fall into packages. I have a long ways to go on that project! There could also be unintended consequences like if the rooster crows and all the pigs jump up and fall apart. Hmm… I think we’ll skip that engineering challenge.

Thin vs Thick Ears of Same Sized Pigs

Another thing I’ve been selecting for over the years is shorter, thicker, upright ears because they’re less prone to frost bite and fighting damage than thinner, longer, floppy ears. Think about the difference between an elephant vs a polar bear or wolf. The northern animals have hairier, thicker, smaller upright ears to protect them from the cold. The southern elephants and pigs have larger ears for dissipating heat. Evolution works wonders.

These are bonus examples of where as both creator and disassembler I can now do more with our herd selective breeding than before I had our butcher shop.

Outdoors: 47°F/22°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 64°F/61°F

Daily Spark: Science doesn’t lie. It may be confusing at times but it never lies.

Technically eugenics is the process of improving the human species but let’s not be speciesists but rather more inclusive of other members of the animal kingdom. Eugenics, as applied to humans, has a bad history and tends to get frowned on so let’s not go there.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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6 Responses to Designer Pigs

  1. Farmerbob1 says:

    Hmmm. Images of LEGO pigs are popping up in my mind’s eye.

  2. aminthepm says:

    How many people have the intimacy from beginning to end what the final product entails ?

  3. Frank R says:

    Hi Walter,

    I’m thinking a pig that was 50% pork belly for BACON would be wonderful :-)

  4. karen says:

    speaking of consequences, a flatter scapula (like a human’s) would increase shoulder mobility at the expense of stability compared to a curved scapula that would articulate closer to a curved ribcage… maybe not enough to notice, but the idea of baseball playing pigs has appeal.

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