Review: Preference elicitation methods for appropriate breeding objectives

JGB Burns*, Vera Eory, Adam Butler, Geoff Simm, E Wall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Breeding objectives of livestock and other agricultural species are usually profit maximising. The selection emphasis placed on specific traits to achieve a breeding objective is often informed by the financial value of a trait to a farm system. However, there are alternative, and complementary approaches to defining both the breeding objective and the selection emphasis placed on traits that are included in associated selection tools. These are based on the preferences of stakeholders, which are often heterogeneous and include broader values and motivations than profit. In this regard, stated preference methods are useful when considering traits that have either no discernible market value or whose value is not fully transferred via the market. Such approaches can guide more appropriate breeding decisions that are amenable to changing societal values, for example with reduced negative environmental externalities. However, while stated preference methods offer promising conceptualisations of value in genetic improvement programmes, there is still a substantial knowledge gap in terms of the current state of research and a catalogue of publications to date. This paper reviews publications of stated preference approaches in the field of livestock breeding (and some relevant crop breeding examples), providing a knowledge base of published applications and promoting their continued development and implementation towards the formulation of appropriate breeding objectives and selection indices. A systematic review of 84 peer-reviewed publications and an aggregate ranking of traits for the most commonly studied subject (cattle) reveals uncertainty in preference estimates which may be driven by (i) a diverse set of non-standardised methodologies, (ii) common oversights in the selection, inclusion and description of traits, and (iii) inaccurate representations of the respondent population. We discuss key considerations to help overcome these limitations, including avoiding methodological confinement to a disciplinary silo and reducing complexity so that the values of broader respondent groups may be accounted for.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100535
Issue number6
Early online date16 May 2022
Publication statusPrint publication - Jun 2022


  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Livestock/genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Preference
  • Sustainability
  • Breeding goal
  • Public good
  • Selection index


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