In my recent post “Push Button, Receive Bacon,” I described how business for small-scale meat processors boomed from a surplus of hogs unable to be sent to larger processors. These bigger establishments faced constricted operations due to labor shortages or closures for deep cleaning, installation of physical safeguards, and reconfiguration to keep employees safe from COVID-19 transmission. While setting up plexigless and protocols is important to ensure worker safety, even a single day’s closure can cause a major backlog when the usual number of hogs (which can be in the tens of thousands) is not delivered, slaughtered, and processed. For perspective, consider some of the biggest pork production facilities and their slaughter capacities (head per day): Smithfield in Tar Heel, NC: 34,500; JBS in Worthington, MN: 21,000; Tyson Foods in Waterloo, IA: 19,500 (National Pork Board, 2019).
In an effort to perform a civic duty (and out of our love for bacon and bratwursts), my husband and I purchased “half a pig” from Deutschland Meats in the quaint small town of Lindstrom, MN. (This town excels in quaintness; its water tower is shaped and painted like a Swedish coffee pot, for goodness’ sake.) I want to give them a quick plug as they were very patient with me each time I called for information, and they packaged and labeled each cut of meat very well. Our chest freezer is now well-stocked with ground pork, bratwurst, chops, roasts, hocks, bacon, and a fully cooked ham. To mark this bountiful harvest, this post is dedicated to pork. Here are a few factoids about this fun and flavorful protein.
- In the U.S., over 60,000 pork producers send more than 115,000,000 hogs to market each year (National Pork Producers Council, NA).
- Despite being a forbidden food for followers of Islam and Judaism, pork is the most commonly eaten red meat in the world (Arnarson, 2019).
- The “butt roast” is located nowhere near a pig’s derriere; it’s actually cut from the top part of the front leg and contains part of the shoulder blade. Theories of how this cut got its name include the idea of meat being packed in “butt” barrels, and “butt” referring to the large, blunt cut side of the roast (Moss, date NA).
- Pork is a significant source for the B-vitamin thiamine, unlike beef and lamb (Arnarson, 2019).
- Crock-Pots have nothing on Hawaiian imu ovens: shallow pits that use fire, lava rocks, leaves, canvas, and dirt to cook a whole pig for eight hours. This low, slow cookery method renders fat and connective tissue to produce kalua pig: moist, juicy shredded pork traditionally served at luaus (Hawaii Aloha Travel, 2010).
- Pigs were first domesticated in China around 7500 B.C., and today China is the top pig-producing country (Myrick, date unavailable).
- Consumption of raw or undercooked pork may lead to infection from Taenia solium (the “pork tapeworm”), parasitic Trichinella roundworms, or Toxoplasma gondii protozoa (Arnarson, 2019).
- To avoid these nasty bugs, always cook fresh pork to a minimum internal temperature of 145oF (United States Department of Health & Human Services, 2019).
- Iowa leads all other states for hog production and contributes to nearly one-third of hogs in the U.S. (Iowa Pork Producers Association, date NA).
- Lean, cooked pork’s protein content is about 26%, and this abundance of high-quality protein as part of a healthy diet and exercise program can promote and maintain muscle mass (Arnarson, 2019).
To summarize: Many small-scale processors are exceeding their normal business operations to help harvest animals during interruptions in larger facilities’ schedules. To help keep their inventory from filling up their freezers, contact one near you and order a variety of pork products. You will not only be blessing local farmers and processors; you’ll find yourself enjoying grilled chops, pan-fried bacon, and glazed hams all year long!
Arnarson, A. (28 March 2019). “Pork 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Effect.” Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/pork.
Hawaii Aloha Travel (16 November 2010). “Kalua pig is a Hawaii custom.” Hawaii Aloha Travel. Retrieved from https://www.hawaii-aloha.com/blog/2010/11/16/kalua-pig-is-hawaii-custom/.
Iowa Pork Producers Association (Date unavailable). “2019 Iowa pork industry facts.” Iowa Pork Facts. Accessed 12 July 2020. Retrieved from https://www.iowapork.org/news-from-the-iowa-pork-producers-association/iowa-pork-facts/.
Moss, R. (date unavailable). “What is Boston butt and how it got its name.” Southern Living. Accessed on 12 July 2020. Retrieved from https://www.southernliving.com/bbq/why-is-it-called-boston-butt.
Myrick, R. (Date unavailable). “Pork fun facts.” Mobile-Cuisine.com. Accessed 12 July 2020. Retrieved from https://mobile-cuisine.com/did-you-know/pork-fun-facts/#:~:text=Pork%20has%20more%20protein%20than,%2Dfried%20or%20stir%2Dfried..
National Pork Board (30 Sept. 2019). Estimated Daily U.S. Slaughter Capacity by Plant (head per day) [Data table]. Retrieved from https://www.pork.org/facts/stats/u-s-packing-sector/#estimatedusdailyhogslaughtercapacitybyplant.
National Pork Producers Council (date unavailable). “Pork Facts.” Accessed 12 July 2020. National Pork Producers Council. Retrieved from https://nppc.org/pork-facts/.
United States Department of Health & Human Services (12 April 2019). “Safe Minimum Cooking Temperature Charts.” Foodsafety.gov. Retrieved from https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/safe-minimum-cooking-temperature.