Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pork, The Other Red Meat (TM)

I'm picky enough about pork that I've by and large stopped eating it. The only pork available in my market is indoor raised, bland, and flabby. It has a grayish color, too, or maybe a sort of dirty white or light dusty pink.

In my quest to find the secrets to truly outstanding, clean, humanely raised beef I was perusing the scintillating, fascinating FSIS/USDA Web site and look what I saw in a section called Why is Beef Called a "Red" Meat? "Other 'red' meats are veal, lamb, and pork."

Now I've long known that pork is a red meat but imagine my surprise when I discovered that the US government calls it a red meat, too.

So why should this matter? Have you heard the marketing slogan "Pork, The Other White Meat"? If the government categorizes pork as a red meat, how does this kind of advertising make it past the National Advertising Review Board?

No matter, I love pork. Bacon, chops, hams, I even tried tongue once. But here's something that's important to know: as with beef, the flavor and texture of pork is influenced by the place and conditions in which it was raised and what it ate. In fact, due to the way a pig's digestive system works, pork is probably even more reflective of "terroir."

If you care a lot about taste and texture, I suggest that you look for pork from pigs who've seen the light of day. I am developing a more detailed list of questions to ask but here's a little acid test or mini-cheat sheet, if you will.
  1. Ask the butcher or seller the name of the farm.
  2. Ask the breed.
  3. Ask how it was raised.
  4. Check to see that it is light red in color.
For the first three you'll probably be met with blank stares. If the seller can't tell you these basic things, you can be pretty darn sure he or she is selling you commodity pork. The flavor will have literally been bred out of it.

If you do see pork that has a red hue, or lord forbid some marbling, don't think something's wrong with it. In fact, you may be looking at be something that will taste absolutely delicious on your plate.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I have been very lucky with everything animal wise around here.

I grew up on farm raised chickens and I can definitely tell a difference between that and shrink wrap packages.

I have friends who come over and are always dying to know why my burgers taste so flipping good.

Uhh..it is all in the raising of the animal and thank you Amish for raising a mean animal.

Pork I either head to the Amish or my favorite farmer who raises pigs in the spring for fall slaughter and only sells whole hogs. Heck anytime I want to head out to the farm the guy who talk my ear off all day long.

Granted I pay a little bit more per pound but not a drastic amount.

Great tips!