Scientists have created glow-in-the-dark pigs, not once, but twice – in Taiwan back in 2005, and again in China in 2013. In 2014, whiskey-flavored pigs were also developed. Today we take a look back at these unusual stories.
The process in both cases involved introducing fluorescent green protein from jellyfish DNA into the pig embryo. The technique was developed by scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
In 2005, researchers in Taiwan bred three “florescent” green pigs by injecting over 260 embryos with protein taken from jellyfish. The three resulting “glowing” pigs had a greenish tint to their skin which illuminated in the dark. Not only did their skin and eyes glow, but their internal organs did as well. That story was noted in the media and books such as Guinness World Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
In 2013, scientists in the Guangdong Province of Southern China were able to create 10 glow-in-the-dark pigs using the same general technique. Dr. Stefan Moisyadi from the University of Hawaii explained that, other than glowing under a black light, the pigs would be otherwise unaffected and could expect a normal life span. “The green is only a marker to show that it’s working easily,” he said.
The creation of glowing rabbits in Turkey was also announced in 2013. Back in 2007, scientists in South Korea announced the creation of glow-in-the-dark cats.
Watch the glowing pigs from 2013 below:
The purpose of such experiments is not to create decorative pigs, but to develop the process of introducing beneficial genes in order to create efficient, less expensive medicines.
We contacted Stefan Moisyadi in June 2015 regarding any updated information on this story. He told us that the original “green” pigs have since had offspring, and “have passed the DNA to them.” He also pointed out that “the technology to make the foreign genes inserted into the genome of the host in a safe manner took close to twenty years to develop.”
Moisyadi reiterated that the green color was simply meant to be an “easily identifiable marker that makes it obvious that the experiment has worked” and that the scientific breakthrough of the experiment sometimes “gets lost amongst the greenness of the animals.”
Whiskey Flavored Pigs
The story below was originally published on June 9, 2014. This product does not appear to be available as of this 2016 update.
When you hear the phrase the Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project, you may first think it’s the code name for a covert government operation. Luckily for us foodies, it’s actually exactly what it sounds like; a delicious combination of swine and spirits. That’s Iowa heritage pigs and Templeton rye whiskey to be exact, and they will soon yield a unique type of whiskey-flavored pork.
Only the best pedigree Duroc pigs have been carefully selected for this project from an Iowa native breeder who has over 20 years of experience. The Duroc breed is known for a succulent and heavily muscled physique that produces tender, juicy pork with a rich flavor. To maximize the flavor bliss, the target weight for each pig is only 210 pounds, which is nearly half the breed’s average of 400 pounds. That’s less economic for Templeton Rye, but worth the improved pork quality. Brady Lowe of Cochon 555 explains the significance of using such quality pigs; “it’s not just farm to table that matters- it’s what happens in between, the how and where, the history of what we eat.” And these pigs really do have a great history since they were first bred in New York by Isaac Frink in 1823. They gained popularity in the 1893 Chicago World fair and have maintained their esteemed status ever since.
Specially Crafted Diet
Each pig in the project is raised in an open-pen setting and given a special diet crafted by Dr. Mark Bertram, who is specially trained in swine nutrition. The diet for the pigs best uses the spent grain by-product from the Templeton Rye whiskey production process. Dr. Bertram has spent his entire life dedicated to swine nutrition from as early as his childhood on a farm to his biggest position as Director of Nutrition for Pork Technologies where he oversaw 85,000 pigs farrow-to-finish. Though, “most importantly Dr. Bertram is a big fan of Templeton Rye,” so his current position allows him to combine his two favorites into one project. This report gives the full details on the specially-formulated diet for the pigs.
The breeder began to help select the boar and sows to be used as early as October 2013. The grain-mash diet created by Dr. Bertram was uniquely formulated during November and December 2013. Next, the 25 purebred Duroc pigs were selected with the help of the Templeton Rye breeder in February 2013. The pigs were born in January 2013, and were quickly placed on the specialty whiskey-based diet for the project. By May 2014, Templeton Rye has made the needed decisions about the partners that are now working with the project. This includes small Iowa-based specialty processors who will help deliver the fruits of this project to the eagerly waiting tables. Luckily, the wait is nearly over since this project is in the final stage, and will begin delivery to restaurants and the public in June and July 2014. More info on Templeton Rye Pork Project (now archived).
Templeton Rye has long been embraced by the culinary world and has been used by chefs worldwide, including many Michelin starred events. Naturally, because of this relationship, this project has caused a lot of excitement in the culinary community. Stephanie Izard, Top Chef Winner and owner of Chicago’s Girl & Goat, summarizes this sentiment succinctly as, “heritage pig + Templeton Rye = Happy Chef.” Besides satisfying the fans among chefs, this project is designed to introduce Templeton Rye whiskey a new group of folks who “appreciate ‘The Good Stuff!’” More info on Templeton Rye whiskey.
Glow-in-the-dark pigs and whiskey-flavored pigs have been produced in the past. These have proven to be somewhat controversial.
What are your thoughts?
- Piglets glow green, thanks to UHM scientists’ reproductive technique (University of Hawaii at Manoa: December 23, 2013)
- Glow-In-The-Dark Piglets Created In China Using Jellyfish DNA (Carla Herreria, Huffington Post: December 25, 2013)
Updated June 26, 2015
Originally published December 26, 2013