“Mom at the Meat Counter” talks about pork quality

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Last week, we posted the results of our poll on pork quality, which turned out to be quite revealing. Fifty-seven percent of those who responded agreed with the statement, “U.S. pigs are too lean, and pork isn’t as tasty as a result.” It bears further discussion.

A friend of mine saw the results and suggested I call a person she’d met recently. Janeal Yancey is a program technician at the University of Arkansas. Not only does she have a Masters and a Ph.D in meat science but she also writes a blog called, “Mom at the Meat Counter.”  My friend says, “[Janeal] has a great following of both consumers and aggies, which results in some very interesting and lively comment chains.”

Who better qualified to answer our questions?

“My opinion is that pork is a lot leaner than it’s been historically,” she says. “I don’t think we want to go back to a lot of external fat, but geneticists and producers might want to try to get more marbling back in the pork. If you talk to chefs and high-end food producers, they really go for the Berkshire pork and highly marbled pork lines. That can be done with genetic selection as well as feeding.”

Yancey says scientists at the University of Arkansas have done research on improving marbling in pork and on bacon quality.

“Bacon quality suffers when pigs are too lean,” she says. “Not having enough fat in the bellies is one of the biggest drivers of the floppy belly problem we have. To get a belly that is thick enough to make good bacon, the pig has to be really big. This might affect tenderness since they could be older animals, but that’s not something I’ve scientifically proven.”

Yancey explains that in general, as the whole animal fattens, marbling is going to improve. “We’ve improved marbling in beef cattle with genetics and there’s no reason why that wouldn’t work in pork, too. I think genetics are going to be the driving force. We need to keep in mind however, those breeds or lines that are more heavily marbled may also be a little fatter and lighter muscled.”

It’s all about finding the right balance, and getting paid for the right attributes, she notes. “The pork industry doesn’t have a marketing system that gives incentive for marbling. There are incentives for quality, which is color, texture and firmness, but marbling has been at the low end of the totem pole. It’s been neglected.”

Perhaps we would be wise to invest additional research dollars into ways to improve marbling, and it’s certainly something for producers to keep in mind as they select breeding stock.

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Phil shaner    
Illinois  |  May, 11, 2013 at 07:16 AM

I have been saying that we had gotten our pigs too lean for a long time. I feel that not only have we lowered the quality of our end product but also have made our sows harder to manage because of the lack of body fat. I personally like to get my hog for the freezer over 320 lb. I think the extra cover makes the loin a better quality product.

Jay Gruber    
Indiana  |  May, 11, 2013 at 07:49 AM

The Europeans warned us of this years ago when there pork consumption dropped due to lack of flavor, i.e. fat. I am with Phil on selecting my own pig for the freezer Read the research...fat is NOT bad for you, if fact it is GOOD for you.

Chris    
Iowa  |  May, 11, 2013 at 07:27 PM

How can you say that more animal fat is good for you???

Phil    
Illinois  |  May, 11, 2013 at 08:04 PM

It is the intramuscular fat that is considered good for you and also what makes the meat taste better.

Young Chul Jung    
Korea  |  May, 12, 2013 at 04:10 AM

As a graduate of animal breeder at ISU. It is sad that ISU stops to sponsor high marbling Duroc project, which successfully increased loin marbling score from 2.5 to 6.0 during last 10 years. The project aimed to produce pork to export to Japan and Korea as well as to increase pork pelatibility.

Young Chul Jung    
Korea  |  May, 12, 2013 at 04:11 AM

As a graduate of animal breeder at ISU. It is sad that ISU stops to sponsor high marbling Duroc project, which successfully increased loin marbling score from 2.5 to 6.0 during last 10 years. The project aimed to produce pork to export to Japan and Korea as well as to increase pork pelatibility.


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