CRISPR'd pigs could produce low-fat bacon

Sarah Buhr

We truly live in amazing times. Chinese scientists just made skinnier pigs using CRISPR-Cas9 technology. Do you know what this means? Low-fat bacon!

I know, I know, for some, bacon without the fat does not sound that appealing. But for those watching their weight and missing the crispy taste of sizzled pig slices, there's this brand new development.

The scientists CRISPR'd 12 pigs to give them 24 percent lower body fat than their peers using a special protein known for regulating body temperature and burning fat called UCP1.

Though the experiment wasn't originally made for bacon purposes, but to help cut down on farmer's costs. Keeping pigs warm in winter is apparently expensive, so by giving the animals a way to heat up naturally farmers don't have to spend so much on heating.

The findings have now been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and could have ramifications throughout the pig industry.

"UCP1 KI pigs are a potentially valuable resource for the pig industry that can improve pig welfare and reduce economic losses," the authors wrote in the study.

It could also potentially affect other meat industries looking to save on heating costs and create low-fat products consumers may be interested in (think of skinny cows, turkeys and chickens).

It's also one step further into a brave new world where human subjects could potentially be allowed to alter their DNA to become naturally thin (and, just as a bonus, warm).

Of course, there's a lot more regulation that must be discussed before that ever happens. The U.S. has so far only allowed CRISPR technology to be used on human embryos never meant to grow beyond a few days.

There's also the question of FDA-approval for such meat. CRISPR'd food is not currently regulated by the FDA as it is only slicing out of certain genes. However, the scientists in this case seem to have used several techniques for the desired skinny pig effect. First by using CRISPR to cut and then by adding in that UPC-1 protein.

Genetically modified foods are a contentious subject in the U.S. and throughout many other parts of the world. On one side of the argument, proponents say it could potentially feed millions throughout the world. On the other side, opponents fear of unseen ramifications to our food crops and potential disastrous effects by not thoroughly testing out how new genes might affect certain populations.

Nevertheless, the U.S. has so far been okay with allowing certain GM foods into our supermarkets. It could only be a matter of time before we see some low-fat bacon at our local grocery store.