chapter  1
24 Pages

The Industrialization of Animal Genetics

During 2007 the world bred an estimated 50 billion chickens, 1.2 billion pigs and 240 million calves born to milking cows.1 The scale of human effort in food animal breeding – from backyard pig-pen to genetics laboratory – dwarfs that of any of the other ways in which we intervene in the reproduction of animals. This chapter examines how systems of food animal breeding have developed since their roots in 18th-century breed ‘improvement’ up to the specialist and global commercial companies that offer to supply the best farm animal genetics of today and tomorrow, and outlines some of the implications for animal welfare.