Everyone needs a goal. Since 1981, Symbol has provided the U.S. pork industry with a “standard of excellence” for market hogs.

“The Symbol tradition started in the early 1980s,” says David Meisinger, National Pork Board’s assistant vice president of education. “As part of what was then the Pork Value Program, we asked industry experts what the ideal pig would look like. We called it the ‘symbol of perfection’.”

Symbol I and Symbol II were unveiled in 1981 and 1995, respectively.

The point behind Symbol III is to think about and design an animal that provides profitability for every industry segment. Therefore, the pig has correctness of structure; production, performance and function requirements; as well as criteria for attitude, health and lean yield. In the end, the pig’s carcass produces the best quality, safest pork that provides the optimum nutrients for human nutrition, says Meisinger.

Like its predecessors, Symbol III has an extensive “job description.”

“It was important for us to establish how this pig was going to perform before we created the icon,” says Meisinger. “We do not want a visually perfect hog; we want one that performs efficiently and produces quality pork that represents the best product the U.S. industry has to offer.”

Symbol I primarily focused on production characteristics; Symbol II added carcass characteristics. Symbol III now brings in meat-quality traits. “In 10 years or so Symbol IV will include detailed nutrient requirements that meet consumers’ needs,” predicts Meisinger.

“There are some pigs today that would meet the phenotype of this model, but not the detailed job description,”  he adds.

So, the bar is officially raised. 

Symbol III’s Job Description
Production Characteristics:

  • Live-weight feed efficiency - 2.4.
  • Fat-free lean gain efficiency - 5.9 (5.8); fat-free lean gain — 0.95 pounds per day.
  • Marketed at 156 (164) days old at 270 pounds. 
  • Diet - corn/soybean meal equivalent (60 pounds onward).
  • Free of all internal and external parasites; immune to or free of economically important swine diseases.
  • Stress-gene free and all other genetic mutations that have detrimental pork-quality effects.
  • Result of a systematic crossbreeding system. Terminal sire selected for growth, efficiency and superior muscle quality. The maternal line weans >25 pigs per year after multiple parities. Genetic lines used genomic technology to maximize gains in genetic profitability and efficiency.
  • Free of all abscesses, injection-site blemishes, arthritis, bruises and carcass trim.
  • Structurally sound with proper angulation and cushion; and a phenotype perfectly matched to the production environment.
  • Produced within an operation meeting Environmental Assurance program standards and assessed through the Swine Welfare Assurance Program.
  • Produced under Pork Quality Assurance and Trucker Quality Assurance guidelines.
  • Produced within a system ensuring the opportunity for profit from the producer to retailer, yet providing a cost-competitive retail price in domestic and export markets.

Carcass Characteristics:

  • Hot-carcass weight – 205 pounds.
  • Loineye muscle area - 6.5 (7.1) square inches.
  • Belly thickness - 1 inch.
  • 10th-rib backfat - 0.7 (0.6) inch.
  • Fat-free-lean index - 53.0 (54.7).

  Meat-quality Characteristics:

  • Muscle color score - 4.
  • 24-hour pH - 5.9.
  • Maximum drip loss - 2.5 percent.
  • Intramuscular-fat level - 3 percent.
  • Free of within-muscle color variation and coarse muscle texture. Free of blood splash.
  • Provides nutrients important for human nutrition and health.
  • Provides a safe, wholesome product free of all violative residues and produced and processed to eliminate all foodborne pathogens.

Note: all numbers in parenthesis represent gilt numbers.

For more information on Symbol III, go to www.porkboard.org