I’ve always been a little intimidated by pork. Mainly, I just did not know how to cook pork other than bacon. In the book Beyond Bacon, authors Toth and McCarry show just how easy it is to cook all kinds of pork and they tackle some very important issues around raising pigs and eating pigs. So much so, that I am convinced that eating a properly and humanely raised hog is OK — actually more than OK — it provides important nutrients and a different form of protein that adds variety to the menu. I loosely followed their recipe for pork chops and they came out great!
Is Pork Healthy?
Is pork healthy is a good question for those of us that have heard various negative things about pork. Toth and McCarry tackle this question with reference to the controversy around several issues.
The Saturated Fat
The first obvious issue is the saturated fat. Lard? Isn’t lard bad for you? If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that I support the use of saturated fat from animals that are properly raised on pasture. Lard has been vilified, but it is actually very high in monounsaturated fat — 47% — just like the fat in olive oil. Lard is also made up of 40% saturated fats and of that, 1/3 is beneficial stearic acid which is also found in chocolate.
Lard is perfect for high heat cooking because of the stability of the fats that make up lard.
Additionally lard, is very high in vitamin D — a vitamin many people are deficient in these days.
Is Pork Safe to Eat?
The Center of Science in the Public Interest did a survey that compared relative incidence of illness caused by several food sources, such as fish and shellfish, poultry, eggs, beef produce, dairy and pork, between 1996 and 2006.
In those ten years, the most frequent foodborne illness were related to fish and shellfish with poultry next. Eggs and beef followed and then came pork with rather low incidences. Additionally, you have to remember that these were most likely incidences of illness from commercial CAFO food.
Mercola also does not recommend eating pork, because of the potential of pathogens in the pork. However, based on the graph as explained above, this can happen in all food items, especially CAFO meats.
Another issue has been brought up by Paul Jaminet concerning illness called zoonotic disease, which is disease passed from animals to humans. Jaminet makes the argument that particularly Hepatits E may be spread by eating pork. This opinion is based on a study of CAFO pigs in China which found that 4% of these CAFO pigs had Hepatits E.
I guess we can stop right there. We are not talking about CAFO pigs here. Or animals raised in China.
Additionally, Hepatits E is usually a 4 – 6 week ordeal that is self limiting in most cases.
Live Cell Microscopy
The third issue involves a teeny tiny study of three people that was published in the Weston Price Journal in 2011. Fresh, cured and marinated pork foods were given to three people and their blood was analyzed using live cell analysis. The conclusions were that clumping of the blood cells occurred when fresh, unmarinated pork was eaten, while cured and marinated pork did not seem to clump the blood cells together.
I don’t think we need to go any further other than to say that perhaps a larger study group is needed. Additionally, in most scientific circles, live cell analysis is not considered objective as the technique has many variables that may confound the results.
However, many traditional cultures did marinate fresh pork for added digestibility and to kill pathogens. I am not completely without concern about unmarinated fresh pork.
When I took microbiology in school I remember learning about the pathogen that causes trichinosis from eating undercooked pork. That put me off of pork immediately. According to Toth and McCarry, that was the wisdom of the 1980’s (OK I’m aging myself here) from the USDA. That information was based on pork from pigs that were fed raw meat scraps. That is now illegal even for CAFO pigs.
Consequently the incidence of trichinosis in this country has dropped to near zero. The few incidences that do occur are due to undercooked game, not pork.
Now I feel better about this.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes