We consider the choice of farm animal breeds for conservation programmes. An expert survey among breed societies and scientists and the analysis of past decisions in EU member countries to enter breeds into conservation programmes show differences in the valuation of breed characteristics. Whereas both sets of actors value diversity aspects as well as cultural and economic aspects of breed conservation, policy makers, in comparison with experts, seem to be less concerned about true extinction risk. The results suggest broadening the discussion about the conservation of animal genetic resources to aspects preserving societal and cultural resources. Copyright 2006, Oxford University Press.