Raising rare breeds: domestication, extinction and meat in the Anthropocene

Started at UWA: 2020

Advancing knowledge of livestock-breed extinctions, domestication and conservation in the climate-change era


The livestock industry’s favouring of a small number of modern commercial breeds has resulted in the extinction of over nine per cent of livestock breeds globally, with at least 1000 more breeds currently at risk (IPBES 2019). Yet, the heritage breeds under threat possess valuable qualities, including hardiness, pest and disease resistance, and environmental adaptability, which may prove invaluable in the changing climatic conditions we are facing. Recognising this, a subset of farmers is working to conserve animal genetic diversity by building niche markets for the meat, fibre, dairy and eggs of endangered breeds. 




Through the first nationwide qualitative study of rare-breed farming, this project will produce fine-grained data on farmers' values and practices, while raising awareness of the challenges they face in their critical conservation work. The project's findings are expected to provide innovative perspectives on human-animal relations and meat consumption in contemporary Australia. 

Benefits to rare-breed farmers and the Australian community are anticipated through determining how the genetic diversity of Australia's livestock can best be supported for a food-secure future.


To advance theoretical understandings of domestication, extinction and human-animal relationships in the Anthropocene.

To inform public debate around livestock genetic diversity, regenerative farming, and food security.

To contribute to policy efforts to support rare-breed conservation and regenerative farming in Australia.

Work with us

We welcome rare-breed farmers to participate in this project and share their experiences.
If you’d like to get involved, please contact Dr Catie Gressier on the details below.

Find out more

Research team leader

Catie Gressier is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow in the Anthropology and Sociology discipline group. Catie's research explores how the cultural values and practices of settler communities influence, and are influenced by, the particularities of their social and natural environments. With a regional focus on southern Africa and Australia, she has published widely on issues including racial and national identities, tourism, the anthropology of food (and meat in particular), and health and illness. Catie has a PhD (anthropology) from UWA, is a former University of Melbourne McArthur Fellow, and sits on the Editorial Board of Anthropological Forum.  


Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award: $422,108 over three years

Contact Dr Catie Gressier

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Research repository

Find out more about Dr Gressier

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