‘CRISPR’ Bacon? Scientists Create Low-Fat Pigs

CBS Local — For people who love bacon but hate everything it does to their diet, scientists in China may have created a way to have your pig and eat it too. A team of researchers have genetically altered pigs to carry nearly 24 percent less body fat.

Using the CRISPR-Cas 9 gene editing technique, the team reportedly modified a group of pigs which gave birth to much leaner piglets. The experiment, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), is looking to make pigs less susceptible to the cold. Scientists noted that modern pigs, especially younger ones, lack the ability to deal with colder temperatures and build up unhealthy levels of fat. The researchers added that the change could create a huge savings for the pig farming industry.

Jianguo Zhoa, one of the Chinese scientists leading the research, added that he doubts the taste of the genetically modified pigs would be any different from normal ones.

The weakness in regular pigs stems from the animal’s lack of the UPC1 gene, which regulates body temperature and is found in most other animals. The experiment added a version of the gene to the embryos of the group of pigs. Their offspring, 12 male piglets, all reportedly had much better tolerance for the cold than their parents did.

“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,” University of Missouri professor R. Michael Roberts told NPR. Although the genetic breakthrough may eventually mean leaner bacon in China, Roberts added that FDA regulations in the U.S. will likely keep the pigs out of America for the moment.

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