New research has revealed that pork tenderloin is as lean as a skinless chicken breast. USDA’s analysis announced today found that trimmed, cooked pork tenderloin contains only 2.98 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving, compared to 3.03 grams of fat in a 3-ounce serving of cooked skinless chicken breast. Pork tenderloin continues to meet government guidelines for “extra lean” status.

“These new findings are exciting for consumers and pork producers,” says Danita Rodibaugh, a pork producer from Rensselaer, Ind. and president of the National Pork Board. “America’s pork producers have responded to consumer demands for a leaner product. On average, the six most common cuts of pork are now 16 percent leaner than 15 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent.”

The new study was a collaborative effort conducted by scientists at USDA, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Maryland. The objective was to compare the nutrient data for fresh pork from 1991 to 2005. The last time USDA conducted an analysis of pork was in 1991.

Researchers collected samples of nine common cuts of fresh pork from a national representative sample of retail stores in a dozen different markets around the country, as outlined in USDA’s National Food and Nutrient Analysis Program sampling plan. Once the collected samples, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other sites analyzed the cuts of pork for calories, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, vitamins and minerals.

“Not only did we find that total fat and saturated fat decreased in six lean cuts of pork we analyzed, but some essential nutrients such as vitamin B6 and niacin actually increased. We also concluded that pork contains no trans fat,” says co-author and visiting scientist Juhi Williams, with the Beltsville, Md., HumanNutritionResearchCenter at the USDA. “A small sample of pork pulled from supermarkets a few years ago led us to believe that pork was probably now leaner, which our study confirmed for the cuts analyzed. It is important that the USDA’s database reflect the most up-to-date nutrient information.”

The new data will replace the existing nutrient values for pork in USDA’s 2007 National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Researchers, registered dietitians, school foodservice directors and other health professionals to plan menus and analyze an individual’s nutrient intake, use this database. Government agencies and health professional organizations rely on the database for establishing dietary guidelines and nutrition policies.

The Revised USDA Nutrient Data Set for Fresh Pork is available at www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=13467

Of the nine cuts analyzed, six of the pork cuts announced by the government have a nutritional profile that meets USDA guidelines for “lean,” with less than 10 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3-ounce serving. Pork tenderloin continues to meet government guidelines for “extra lean,” which requires less than 5 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. The other cuts include the pork boneless top loin chop, the pork boneless top loin roast, the pork center loin chop, the pork center rib chop and the pork bone-in sirloin roast.

“Pork tenderloin is flavorful and can be cooked a variety of ways,” says Rodibaugh. “Just because there is less fat, it doesn’t mean there is less flavor.”

Pork also packs a significant amount of nutrients in every lean portion. According to government labeling guidelines, a 3-ounce serving of pork tenderloin is an “excellent” source of protein, thiamin, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus and a “good” source of zinc, riboflavin and potassium and, yet contributes only 6 percent of the calories to a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

For more nutritional information on the six cuts, visit www.pork.org.

National Pork Board, Agricultural Research Service