Worldwide, pork is consumed more than any other meat product. However, recently in the United States, a considerable drop in pork consumption has recently begun. This drop could be explained by a sudden focus on a health-conscious diet that limits fat intake. Today, pork is bred and raised to contain less fat than ever. While pork is considered “safer” than poultry products, it still needs to be cooked properly to avoid any food borne illnesses.
Pork is defined as any meat from domestic swine. Humans have been eating pork since 7000 B.C., and Hernando de Soto was the first explorer to bring pork to America, where it quickly became the most popular meat. This was partly a result of urbanization; people who lived in cities needed to be able to preserve meat, like salt pork. Even today, most pork products on the market are of the cured variety – ham, sausage, and bacon. Any pork that has not been cured, such as pork loin or pork chops, is called fresh pork.
How to Buy Pork
When you buy pork, look for cuts that have smaller amounts of fat on the outside. Also look for pork meat that is firm to the touch, and is grayish-pink in color. Marbling is not desirable in pork; it indicates lower levels of flavor and tenderness.
Why is this White Meat Considered a Red Meat?
It may surprise you that pork is considered a red meat, as opposed to white meat. This is because it contains higher levels of myoglobin than white meats such as poultry and fish. Myoglobin is responsible for storing oxygen in the muscles of the animal.
Is Pork Safe?
It is necessary that pork is cooked thoroughly before consumption. It may contain parasites and bacteria, which are dangerous when not killed by heat. Humans are at risk for contracting trichinosis if they consume undercooked pork. While pork does not contain the parasite responsible for this illness as much as it did years ago, there is still a possibility it could have it. For this reason, pork should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your pork. The meat will continue to cook to a temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit after being removed from the heat, so make sure to allow your meat to rest for at least three minutes before cutting it. This will also improve the quality of your meat, as it is given time to reabsorb juices lost during cooking.
Pork can also contain microorganisms that are found in other meats like Escherichia Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. It is possible for a human to contract these illnesses because of consuming undercooked pork, or as a result of cross-contamination while preparing and cooking a meal.
Safe Handling of Pork
You do not need to rinse your pork before you cook it. Safe handling of all meats starts where you purchase them. Make sure to pick up your pork and other meat products after selecting any vegetables, fruits, or nonperishable foods. Put your pork products in plastic bags (such as those provided in the produce aisle) to prevent the packages from leaking onto your other products. Make sure to refrigerate your pork and use it within five days of purchasing. If you are not using your pork within five days, be sure to freeze it.
As with other meats, pork should be thawed either quickly in the microwave, or slowly in the refrigerator. You may choose to thaw your pork in a cold-water bath to speed the process up; this is just as safe. If you do not wish to thaw your pork first, you may cook it while it is frozen on the stove, grill, or in an oven. Do not attempt to cook frozen pork in a slow cooker. This allows it to sit in the “food temperature danger zone” for far too long. This temperature range is the range in which bacteria grow most rapidly.
Pork should always be cooked to at least 145 degrees internally. Ground pork mixtures should be cooked more thoroughly, up to 160 degrees internally. The same goes for organ and variety meats. Fully cooked pork may still have a pink appearance which some people find worrysome. However, it is still safe to eat if it has reached the proper temperature.