The concept of food shortages is nothing new. As the world’s population continues to grow at a staggering rate, current production methods simply aren’t sustainable. This has led companies and even countries to resort to some non-traditional methods of food production over the years.
Interestingly, as China faces a nationwide shortage of pork, the country’s solution is to simply grow its pigs bigger. As a result, farmers are now raising hogs that weigh more than a grand piano. While it isn’t clear exactly how this is being accomplished, it is believed that gene-editing might be involved.
China’s current pork shortage is the result of a devastating outbreak of African swine fever. The disease has ravaged the country’s pig population over the past few years and has killed as many as half of the domestic animals.
While this would be a problem anywhere, it is even worse for China. The country’s citizens consume more pork than anyone else in the world. In response, the Communist government has urged farmers to bolster their production of pork.
When a Communist regime “urges” something, people are typically quick to respond. Many farmers in China have taken the request quite seriously and are now turning to drastic, oftentimes questionable, methods to produce more pork.
Gene Editing Problem?
According to a report from Bloomberg, the efforts of Chinese pig farmers aren’t without reward. Prior to the pork shortage, the country sent pigs to slaughter at an average weight of 242 pounds. Now, the average has jumped by a significant amount to 308 pounds. However, that’s only the average.
Farmers across the country are racing to see who can produce the most pork. Zhao Hailin, a man raising pigs in the Jilin province, has a goal of making his livestock “as big as possible.” He states that he plans to send the pigs to slaughter weighing no less than 385 pounds.
Meanwhile, a farmer in Guangxi somehow bred a pig weighing 1,102 pounds. For comparison, most grand pianos weigh roughly 800-1,000 pounds.
While the spike in slaughter weight is certainly an impressive response to the country’s need for increased pork production, it does raise some questions. For one, how is such growth happening?
The simple answer is that farmers are doing nothing more than breeding large pigs with other large pigs to create, yes, even larger pigs. However, there could be a more sinister answer. Back in 2017, researchers discovered that they could use CRISPR gene-editing to create pigs with lower fat content. Not only does this make the animals healthier, it allows them to grow bigger with more consumable meat.
While no reports have confirmed that similar techniques are being used in China currently, it wouldn’t be surprising if such information did come to light. Regardless of whether there is a food shortage or not, scientists should be testing these massive pigs to ensure that they are safe for consumption.