A team of scientists at Michigan State University (MSU) has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study factors affecting meat quality.

Researchers have analyzed various management strategies to produce leaner pork to increase consumer appeal. Genetic selection methods have improved lean meat production in pigs; however, it has caused a decline in meat quality.

MSU scientists are looking at DNA markers and gene expression patterns to find the genetic components controlling lean growth and meat quality traits.

“This grant gives us the opportunity to broaden the scope of the research we have been doing here at MSU,” says project leader Cathy Ernst, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science. “Locating and utilizing specific favorable genes for lean growth and meat quality will help overcome the natural antagonistic relationship and allow improvement in both efficient production and product quality.”

By looking at genetic markers that differ between Duroc, known for good meat quality, and Pietrain, known for lean growth but low-quality meat, researchers hope to develop methods to improve growth and meat quality traits.