Smell the Genetically Modified Bacon: Low-Fat Pigs Now Exist

Chinese scientists have created piglets with 25 percent less body fat.

For better or worse, people have pretty much always associated pigs with fatness. But the pig’s unflattering reputation could change soon, thanks to a new scientific development.

According to a new report by NPR, Chinese scientists have successfully discovered a way to create genetically modified pigs that have significantly less body fat than standard, run-of-the-mill pigs. In a report titled Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists write thy have managed to crate 12 healthy pigs with about 24 percent less body fat than normal pigs.

The scientists hope that providing pig farmers with skinnier hogs to raise would reduce costs when it comes to feeding the livestock and keeping it warm through the winter. As NPR writes, “The animals have less body fat because they have a gene that allows them to regulate their body temperatures better by burning fat. That could save farmers millions of dollars in heating and feeding costs, as well as prevent millions of piglets from suffering and dying in cold weather.”

The report also notes that the modifications wouldn’t affect the taste or quality of any meat originating from the skinny pigs. (“People like to eat pork with less fat but higher lean mean,” notes one author of the paper.) But that's not likely to matter here in the U.S.: Chris Davies, an associate professor in the school of veterinary medicine at Utah State University, says he doubts the FDA would approve genetically modified meat in America. The recent approval of genetically modified salmon took 25 years and has still been met with a good deal of protest and resistance. 

But if genetically modified livestock is really the wave of the future elsewhere around the world, then “fat as a pig” could get a whole new meaning.

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