Although pork is the number one meat consumed in the world, U.S. consumption dropped during the 1970s, largely because its high fat content caused health-conscious Americans to choose leaner meats. Today's hogs have much less fat due to improved genetics, breeding and feeding. Read on for more information about this red meat.
What to Look For When Buying Pork
What Does "Natural" Mean? All fresh meat qualifies as "natural." Products labeled "natural" cannot contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed (ground, for example). A brief statement that explains what is meant by the term "natural" should accompany all products claiming to be natural.
Why is Pork a "Red" Meat? Oxygen is delivered to muscles by the red cells in the blood. One of the proteins in meat, myoglobin, holds the oxygen in the muscle. The amount of myoglobin in animal muscles determines the color of meat. Pork is classified a "red" meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. When fresh pork is cooked, it becomes lighter in color, but it is still a red meat. Pork is classed as "livestock" along with veal, lamb and beef. All livestock are considered "red meat."
What Food-borne Organisms Are Associated With Pork? Pork must be adequately cooked to eliminate disease-causing parasites and bacteria that may be present. Humans may contract trichinosis (caused by the parasite, Trichinella spiralis) by eating undercooked pork. Much progress has been made in reducing trichinosis in grain-fed hogs and human cases have greatly declined since 1950. Today's pork can be enjoyed when cooked to a medium internal temperature of 160 °F or a well-done internal temperature of 170 °F. Some other food borne microorganisms that can be found in pork, as well as other meats and poultry, are Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes. Proper handling and thorough cooking to an internal temperature of 160 °F destroy them all.
Marinating Marinate pork in the refrigerator in a covered container up to 5 days. Boil used marinade before brushing on cooked pork. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.
Partial Cooking Never brown or partially cook pork, then refrigerate and finish cooking later, because any bacteria present wouldn't have been destroyed. It is safe to partially pre-cook or microwave pork immediately before transferring it to the hot grill to finish cooking.
Safe Cooking For safety, the USDA recommends cooking ground pork patties and ground pork mixtures such as meat loaf to 160 °F. Whole muscle meats such as chops and roasts should be cooked to 160 °F (medium), or 170 °F (well done). Use a meat thermometer to check for safe cooking and doneness of pork.
For more Information about safe handling go to: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/pork.htm
Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
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by Frances M. McCrory-Meservy