GE pigs, pink slime gone; what’s next?

A friend in grad school used to get pigs off.

He needed their semen for genetics research and, that was how to get it (with props, the mount-equivalent of lingerie, I guess).

That was 1986, and I would soon drop out of grad school to pursue Hunter-S-Thompson-esq journalist escapades, but not nearly as interesting.

The grad student worked with John Phillips, a prof in molecular biology at the University of Guelph, an excellent teacher (the rest of the department? not so much) and my occasional squash partner. After one match, I commented, with the arrogance of youth, you’re putting on a few pounds.

He said, when you’re this age, it will look pretty good.

Was he ever right.

Dr. John teamed up with a microbiology prof and in the 1990s they developed the Enviropig, a genetically engineered pig that could reduce phosphate contamination into the environment. Enviropigs digest feed more efficiently than naturally bred pigs, resulting in waste that may cause less environmental damage to lakes and rivers.

The project has sat in regulatory limbo for over a decade.

The project has produced eight generations of Enviropigs, including the current herd of 16 animals. But they may be the last of their kind, after Ontario Pork yanked their funding last month.

Self-proclaimed enviro-types claimed victory, but again, there were no winners.

Unlike pink slime, there were no politicians grandstanding the cause, no media reacting to media about sensationalist coverage, no talking heads about the excellence of science.


But why not, if the science is sound and the cause just?

There will be another pink slime, sooner rather than later – and those same self-proclaimed environmental activists have already taken ownership of pink slime as a catchphrase for things hidden. Food and Water Watch proclaims that doo doo chicken is the new pink slime.

Meanwhile, AFA Foods, based in King of Prussia, Pa., which processes 500 million pounds of ground beef products a year, declared bankruptcy yesterday, after the public outcry over pink slime derailed its efforts to save its already struggling business.

A meat manager for a major New York supermarket chain told Advertising Age, "The morning after the reports came out, ground-beef sales dropped. We ended up throwing chopped meat away. We don’t even use pink slime and we had to put signs up everywhere saying that. People wouldn’t even touch it."

All of this is a culture where food science is nothing compared to food porn (see below).