Scientists Genetically Modify Pigs For Leaner, Crispier Meats

Image courtesy of (Phillie Casablanca)

Soon, instead of leaving your bacon in the frying pan — on the verge of burning — in order to get that crispy, crunchy meat, you could just buy crispier bacon from the get-go. Scientists say they have developed genetically modified pigs meant to reduce costs for farmers, while providing consumers with leaner meat. 

A recently published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, reports that researchers have created so-called low-fat pigs; which are thought to have 24% less body fat than normal pigs.

Burning Fat

Scientists say they were able to create 12 pigs that contain a gene — UPC1 — that allows them to better regulate their body temperature.

The researches were able to add the gene to the pigs through a process called CRISPR-Cas9, that allows scientists to make changes in DNA. Through this, the scientists added the UPC1 gene from a mouse into pig cells.

Unlike traditional pigs those with the UPC1 gene can regulate their temperature in a way that burns more fat.

As a result, the scientists say the animals will require less food and heating.

In turn, the pigs would theoretically cost less to raise. Farmers wouldn’t have to pay as much in the winter to keep the pigs warm — and smaller piglets from freezing.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Jianguo Zhao, the researcher who led the study, tells NPR. “They could maintain their body temperature much better, which means that they could survive better in the cold weather.”

An Important Finding

While researchers note that the findings are significant for the farming industry, it likely won’t hit your stove for a while.

“It demonstrates a way that you can improve the welfare of animals at the same as also improving the product from those animals — the meat,” R. Michael Roberts, a professor in the department of animal sciences at the University of Missouri, who edited the research, tells NPR.

However, he notes that federal food regulators likely won’t approve the pigs or allow their meat to enter the food chain.

Despite this, Zhao tells NPR that he’s sure the modification wouldn’t affect the taste of the resulting meat.

He notes that the breed of pig used in the research is famous for its quality of meat. Because of this, he assumed the modification wouldn’t change the taste later down the food chain.

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