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Pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig (Sus domesticus). The word pork often denotes specifically the fresh meat of the pig, but can be used as an all-inclusive term which includes cured, smoked, or processed meats (ham, bacon, prosciutto, etc.) It is one of the most-commonly consumed meats worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC.

Pork is eaten in various forms, including cooked (as roast pork), cured or smoked (ham, including the Italian prosciutto) or a combination of these methods (gammon, bacon or Pancetta). It is also a common ingredient of sausages. Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, many from pork. Pork is a taboo food item in Islam and Judaism, and its consumption is forbidden in these two religions.

Etymology

The term as it refers to the fresh flesh of a pig dates from the Middle English, derived from the French and Latin "pig". It was one of almost 500 French words pertaining to cooking, food or eating that entered English usage after the Norman Conquest.

History

The pig is one of the oldest forms of livestock, having been domesticated as early as 5000 BC. It is believed to have been domesticated either in the Near East or in Chinamarker from the wild boar. The adaptable nature and omnivorous diet of this creature allowed early humans to domesticate it much earlier than many other forms of livestock, such as cattle. Pigs were mostly used for food, but people also used their hide for shields and shoes, their bones for tools and weapons, and their bristles for brushes. Pigs have other roles within the human economy: their feeding behaviour in searching for roots churns up the ground and makes it easier to plough; their sensitive noses lead them to truffles, an underground fungus highly valued by humans; and their omnivorous nature enables them to eat human rubbish, keeping settlements cleaner.

Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork. Originally intended as a way to preserve meats before the advent of refrigeration, these preparations are prepared today for their flavors that are derived from the preservation processes. In 15th century France local guilds regulated tradesman in the food production industry in each city. The guilds that produced charcuterie were those of the charcutiers. The members of this guild produced a traditional range of cooked or salted and dried meats, which varied, sometimes distinctively, from region to region. The only "raw" meat the charcutiers were allowed to sell was unrendered lard. The charcutier prepared numerous items including pâtés, rillettes, sausages, bacon, trotters, and head cheese.

Before the mass-production and re-engineering of pork in the 20th century, pork in Europe and North America was traditionally an autumn dish; pigs and other livestock coming to the slaughter in the autumn after growing in the spring and fattening during the summer. Due to the seasonal nature of the meat in Western culinary history, apples (harvested in late summer and autumn) have been a staple pairing to fresh pork. The year-round availability of meat and fruits has not diminished the popularity of this combination on Western plates.

Consumption patterns



Pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, accounting for about 38% of meat production worldwide, although consumption varies widely from place to place. Despite religious restrictions on the consumption of pork and the prominence of beef production in the West, pork consumption has been rising for thirty years, both in actual terms and in terms of meat-market share.

According to the USDAmarker's Foreign Agricultural Service, nearly 100 million metric tons of pork were consumed worldwide in 2006 (preliminary data). Increasing urbanization and disposable income has led to a rapid rise in pork consumption in China, where 2006 consumption is 20% higher than in 2002, and a further 5% increase projected in 2007.

2006 worldwide pork consumption
Rank Region Metric tons (millions) Per capita (kg)
1 People's Republic of Chinamarker 52.5 40.0
2 EU25 20.1 43.9
3 United Statesmarker 9.0 29.0
4 Russian Federationmarker 2.6 18.1
5 Japanmarker 2.5 19.8
Others 12.2
Total 98.9
Source: USDAmarker Foreign Agricultural Service, preliminary data for 2006.


In Asia

Pork is popular throughout eastern Asia and the Pacific, where whole roast pig is a popular item in Pacific Island cuisine. It is consumed in a great many ways and highly esteemed in Chinese cuisine. There, pork is preferred over beef due to economic and aesthetic reasons; the pig is easy to feed and is not used for labour. The colours of the meat and the fat of pork are regarded as more appetizing, while the taste and smell are described as sweeter and cleaner. It is also considered easier to digest.

Pork products

Pork may be cooked from fresh meat or cured over time. Cured meat products include ham and bacon. The carcass may be used in many different ways for fresh meat cuts, with the popularity of certain cuts and certain carcass proportions varying worldwide.

Fresh meat

Most of the carcass can be used to produce fresh meat and in the case of a suckling pig the whole body of a young pig ranging in age from two to six weeks is roasted.

Processed pork

Pork is particularly common as an ingredient of sausages. Many traditional European sausages are made with pork, including chorizo, fuet, Cumberland sausage and salami. Most brands of American hot dogs and breakfast sausage are made from pork.

Ham and bacon are made from fresh pork by curing with salt (pickling) and/or smoking. Shoulders and legs are most commonly cured in this manner for Picnic shoulder and ham, whereas streaky and round bacon come from the side (round from the loin and streaky from the belly).
Ham and bacon are popular foods in the west, and their consumption has increased with industrialisation. Non-western cuisines also use preserved meat products. For example, salted preserved pork or red roasted pork is used in Chinese and Asian cuisine.

Bacon is defined as any of certain cuts of meat taken from the sides, belly or back that have been cured and/or smoked. In continental Europe, it is used primarily in cubes (lardons) as a cooking ingredient valued both as a source of fat and for its flavour. In Italymarker, besides being used in cooking, bacon (pancetta) is also served uncooked and thinly sliced as part of an antipasto. Bacon is also used for barding and larding roasts, especially game birds. Many people prefer to have their bacon smoked, using various types of wood. This process can take up to ten hours depending on the intensity of the flavour desired. Bacon may be eaten fried, baked, or grilled.

A side of unsliced bacon is a flitch or slab bacon, while an individual slice of bacon is a rasher (United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Australia and New Zealand) or simply a slice or strip (North America). Slices of bacon are also known as collops. Traditionally, the skin is left on the cut and is known as bacon rind. Rindless bacon, however, is quite common. In the United Kingdommarker and Republic of Irelandmarker, bacon comes in a wide variety of cuts and flavours and is predominantly known as "streaky bacon", or "streaky rashers". Bacon made from the meat on the back of the pig is referred to as back bacon and is part of traditional Full breakfast commonly eaten in Britainmarker and Irelandmarker. In the United States, back bacon may also be referred to as Canadian-style Bacon or Canadian Bacon.

The USDAmarker defines bacon as "the cured belly of a swine carcass", while other cuts and characteristics must be separately qualified (e.g. "smoked pork loin bacon"). "USDA Certified" bacon means that it has been treated for trichinella.

The canned meat Spam is made of chopped pork shoulder meat and ham.

Cuts

There are different systems of naming for cuts in America, Britain and France.
  • Head - This can be used to make brawn, stocks and soups. After boiling, the ears can be fried or baked and eaten separately.
  • Spare Rib Roast/Spare Rib Joint/Blade Shoulder/Shoulder Butt - This is the shoulder and contains the shoulder blade. It can be boned out and rolled up as a roasting joint, or cured as "collar bacon". Not to be confused with the rack of spare ribs from the front belly. Pork butt, despite its name, is from the upper part of the shoulder. Boston Butt, or Boston-Style Shoulder, cut comes from this area, and may contain the shoulder blade.
  • Hand/Arm Shoulder/Arm Picnic - This can be cured on the bone to make a ham-like product, or used in sausages.


  • Loin - This can be cured to give back bacon or Canadian-style bacon. The loin and belly can be cured together to give a side of bacon. The loin can also be divided up into roasts (blade loin roasts, center loin roasts, and sirloin roasts come from the front, center, or rear of the loin), back ribs (also called baby back ribs, or riblets), pork cutlets, and pork chops. A pork loin crown roast is arranged into a circle, either boneless or with rib bones protruding upward as points in a crown. Pork tenderloin, removed from the loin, should be practically free of fat.
  • Belly/Side/Side Pork - The belly, although a fattier meat, can be used for steaks or diced stir-fry meat. Belly pork may be rolled for roasting or cut for streaky bacon.
  • Legs/Hams - Although any cut of pork can be cured, technically speaking only the back leg is entitled to be called a ham. Legs and shoulders, when used fresh, are usually cut bone-in for roasting, or leg steaks can be cut from the bone. Three common cuts of the leg include the rump (upper portion), center, and shank (lower portion).
  • Trotters - Both the front and hind trotters can be cooked and eaten, as can the tail.
  • Spare ribs, or spareribs, are taken from the pig's ribs and the meat surrounding the bones. St. Louis-style spareribs have the sternum, cartilage, and skirt meat removed.


Use of the whole carcass

To use the whole carcass ("everything but the oink"), parts of the pig such as knuckle, pig's feet ("trotters"), chitterlings (pork intestines), and hog jowls may be eaten. In earlier centuries in the United Statesmarker, some of these products figured prominently in the traditional diets of poor Southerners (see soul food). Scrapple and McRib are other examples of aggregate pork products.

Feijoada, the national dish of Brazilmarker (also served in Portugal), is prepared with pork trimmings: ears, tail and feet.

Nutrition



In gastronomy, pork is traditionally considered a white meat, but in nutritional studies, it is usually grouped with beef as red meat, and public perceptions have been changing . Its myoglobin content is lower than beef, but much higher than chicken. The USDAmarker treats pork as a red meat. Pork is very high in thiamin.

In 1987 the U.S. National Pork Board, began an advertising campaign to position pork as "the other white meat" due to a public perception of chicken and turkey (white meat) as more healthy than red meat. The campaign was highly successful and resulted in 87% of consumers identifying pork with the slogan. As of 2005, the slogan is still used in marketing pork, with some variations.

Potential health risks

Uncooked and untreated, the meat may harbor worms and latent diseases. Many of these infestations are harbored in other animals as well, such as salmonella in chicken.

Pork with its fat trimmed is leaner than most domesticated animals. Otherwise, it is high in cholesterol and saturated fat.

The pig is the carrier of various helminths, like roundworm, pinworm, hookworm, etc. One of the most dangerous and common is Taenia solium, a type of tapeworm. Tapeworms may transplant to human intestines as well by consuming untreated or uncooked meat from pigs or other animals.

Trichinosis

Trichinosis, also called trichinellosis, or trichiniasis, is a parasitic disease caused by eating raw or undercooked pork infected with the larvae of a species of roundworm Trichinella spiralis, commonly called the trichina worm. Infection was once very common, but is now rare in the developed world. From 1997 to 2001, an annual average of 12 cases per year were reported in the United States. The number of cases has decreased because of legislation prohibiting the feeding of raw meat garbage to hogs, increased commercial and home freezing of pork, and the public awareness of the danger of eating raw or undercooked pork products.

Religious bans of pork consumption

Judaism

Pig's meat, including pork, is one of the most well known examples of nonkosher food. The basis for this prohibition are Leviticus chapter 11 and Deuteronomy chapter 14:

Leviticus 11:2-4, 7-8
זאת החיה אשר תאכלו מכל הבהמה אשר על הארץ כל מפרשת פרסה ושסעת שסע פרסת מעלה גרה בבהמה אתה תאכלו אך את זה לה תאכלו ממעלי הגרה וממפרסי הפרסה את הגמל כי מעלי גרה הוא ופרסה איננו מפריס טמאה הוא לכם...ואת החזיר כי מפריס פרסה הוא ושסע שסע פרסה והוא גרה לא יגר טמא הוא לכם מבשרם לא תאכלו
"These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the animals that are upon the land. Everything that possesses a split hoof, which is fully cloven, and that brings up its cud -- this you may eat. But this is what you shall not eat from what brings up its cud or possesses split hooves -- the camel, because it brings up its cud but does not possess split hooves...and the pig, because it has split hooves that are completely cloven, but it does not bring up its cud -- it is impure to you and from its flesh you may not eat."


Deuteronomy 14:8
"...ואת החזיר כי מפריס פרסה הוא ולא גרה טמא הוא לכם מבשרם לא תאכלו"
"And the pig, because it possesses split hooves and does not bring up its cud -- from its flesh you may not eat."


As indicated by the biblical verses, Jews may not consume any land animal that does not possess both kosher signs:
  1. The animal must possess completely split hooves
  2. The animal must bring up its cud


Although, as for most other commandments, the Torah does not provide a rationale, many reasons for this ban have been proposed.

Islam

Pork is prohibited by the Islamic dietary laws. Throughout the Islamic world many countries severely restrict the importation or consumption of pork products. Examples are Iranmarker, Mauritaniamarker, Omanmarker, Qatarmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker and Maldivesmarker. The Qur'anic basis for the Islamic prohibition of pork can be found in suras 2:173, 5:3, 5:60, 6:145 and 16:115.

Chapter(Sura) 2 - Verse(Ayat) 173 Al-Baqara (The Cow)

"He hath only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invoked besides that of Allah. But if one is forced by necessity, without wilful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits,- then is he guiltless. For Allah is Oft-forgiving Most Merciful."

Other religions and cultures

Seventh-day Adventists, Rastafari, and followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox church also do not eat pork.

The Scottish pork taboo was Donald Alexander Mackenzie's phrase for discussing an aversion to pork amongst Scotsmarker, particularly Highlanders, which he believed to stem from an ancient taboo. Several writers who confirm that there was a prejudice against pork, or a superstitious attitude to pigs, do not see it in terms of a taboo related to an ancient cult. Any prejudice is generally agreed to have been fading by 1800.

Notes

  1. Raloff, Janet. Food for Thought: Global Food Trends. Science News Online. May 31, 2003.
  2. Pigs Force Rethink on Human History University of Oxford Press Office. March 11, 2005.
  3. Ruhlman, 18.; The Culinary Institute of America, 3.
  4. Ruhlman, 19.
  5. "Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade." Circular Series DL&P 2-06, Foreign Agricultural Service, United States Department of Agriculture, October 2006. Retrieved on 2007-08-15.
  6. Cattleman's Beef Board & National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  7. United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: Glossery B. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
  8. Cattleman's Beef Board & National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  9. The Global Gourmet ®
  10. Foodfacts.info
  11. Brazilbrazil.com
  12. Fresh Pork...from Farm to Table USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.
  13. Calorie-Count.com Nutrition Facts
  14. Lavere, Jane L. The Media Business: Advertising; The pork industry's 'other white meat' campaign is taken in a new direction, off the beaten path. Nytimes.com. March 4, 2005.
  15. Travel Report for Iran Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
  16. Travel Report for Mauritania Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
  17. Travel Advice for Oman Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  18. Travel Report for Qatar Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
  19. Travel Report for Saudi Arabia Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.
  20. Selected Biblical References to DietSeventh-day Adventist Dietetic Association


References

  • Ruhlman, Michael and Polcyn, Brian. Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-05829-1


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