Dramatic improvements in yields and efficiencies of animal production are critical to meet the ever-increasing demand for dietary protein in the United States and around the world. Animal breeding is one strategy by which these improvements may be achieved. NIFA provides national leadership and funding opportunities to conduct basic, applied, and integrated research to expand our knowledge of animal genetics and genomics. Our partners include scientists at universities and research organizations, food animal industries, and, of course, consumers.
Per capita consumption of beef, pork, broiler, and turkey meat in the U.S. increased from about 127 pounds in 1950 to more than 220 pounds in 2007. Animal geneticists played an essential role in keeping up with this demand by providing farmers with improved breeding strategies to produce healthy, vigorous animals capable of using nutrients efficiently for growth and reproduction. A notable example of the value of genetic selection is the market weight of broiler chickens, which increased by nearly 23 percent in six decades. Now more than ever, such remarkable improvements in yields of animal protein are needed to meet the ever-increasing demand for animal protein in the United States and around the world. However, achieving genetic improvement in modern-day animal agricultural systems comes with its own complexities. Using cutting-edge research techniques, animal geneticists are making progress toward understanding the precise genetic factors that promote health and regulate growth, reproduction, and nutrient utilization. This foundational knowledge will lead to new tools and management practices and enable increased production while reducing impacts of animal agriculture on 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 to identify the genes and genetic mechanisms underlying economically important traits in livestock species.