According to the people who voted in our most recent poll, pigs are too lean. We asked, “Which of the following best reflects how you feel about current pork quality?” I have to admit, I was slightly surprised by the results. Fifty-seven percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “U.S. pigs are too lean, and pork isn’t as tasty as a result.”
Only nine percent agreed with "U.S. pigs are still too fat and the industry should continue its quest for leaner pigs."
Thirty-four percent of respondents believe the industry has made great progress in producing lean pigs and should stay right where it is today.
Pigs in the 1940s and 50s don’t even resemble the pigs being produced today. In looking over records from those times, the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago had classes for barrows weighing 400 pounds! Fat was needed during war times, but that isn’t the case today.
We’ve done a good job of promoting lean pork, and pig breeders have worked hard to provide leaner genetics. In addition, shoppers look for closely trimmed pork with very little intramuscular fat. But because many consumers still tend to overcook pork, the potential for a drier, less flavorful eating experience is increased.
Has the industry gone too far in the quest for lean pigs? I’m not sure. Chefs on the Food Channel like to use fattier meat, but with the obesity problems in this country, there’s obviously a disconnect between what people want and what they need.
It’s a difficult issue to define, let alone solve. Tell us what you think, and we’ll follow-up with some meat scientists to gain their perspective, too.