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Low-fat pigs? How scientists are trying to create healthier bacon

Bacon isn't just a fun food fad — it's definitely here to stay. Now, the popular pork product getting a leaner makeover.
/ Source: TODAY

Bacon isn't just a fun food fad — it's definitely here to stay.

There's a reason it's found pretty much everywhere these days, from fancy restaurant menus to sweet and salty cupcakes ... people just love the crispy stuff! And now, through genetic modification, scientists in China have created a leaner version of the animal that the popular product comes from.

Pork lovers watching their fat intake may be heartened to hear that the scientists were able to produce 12 healthy pigs that have 24 percent less body fat than standard pigs, according to the findings published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Though leaner, crispier bacon was one goal of the genetic experiment, the scientists also wanted to make livestock that would be less expensive to raise by keeping warmer in cold winters.

Lead scientist Jianguo Zhao told NPR, "They [the pigs] could maintain their body temperature much better, which means that they could survive better in the cold weather."

Ideally, that means farmers would save money during the winter on expensive heating bills. However, don't run to the grocery store just yet.

Though genetically modified salmon has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a professor in the University of Missouri's department of animal sciences, who edited the paper for publication in the journal, told NPR, "I very much doubt that this particular pig will ever be imported into the USA — one thing — and secondly, whether it would ever be allowed to enter the food chain."

Bacon Waffles

Looks like you'll just have to leave your bacon on the stove (or in the oven!) a little longer if you like it extra crispy.

Additionally, Bonnie Taux-Dib, a registered dietician and author of "Read it Before You Eat," told TODAY Food that "fat is not necessarily the issue."

"What about sodium? What about nitrites and preservatives?" she explained. "We need to focus on foods that have value ... food that energize us and help us look and feel our best. Every food can fit in your diet — but some foods make you feel more fit than others!"

For those who abstain from pork altogether, there are vegan versions made with eggplant, kosher versions made with turkey and even "bacon" bits that have no pork whatsoever.

But, there's just nothing like the real thing for true bacon lovers! Soon, however, the real thing could be less fatty.