The process to change the recommended cooking temperature for pork muscle meat began six years ago. It started by meeting with the Food Safety Inspection Service to determine what scientific information was needed to complete the task, said Liz Wagstrom, the National Pork Producers Council's chief veterinarian.
“It was very much a cooperative effort, with science and policy working together,” she reported at a World Pork Expo news conference on Thursday. The end result is the newly released approved cooking temperature for pork muscle cuts of 145 F internal temperature with a 3-minute hold.
The result for consumers is a juicier product, which extensive National Pork Board consumer taste panel studies show consumers prefer. Consumer groups were part of the cooking temperature discussion along the way, Wagstrom pointed out.
Cooking temperatures for ground product will remain the same—160 F for beef and pork, 165 F for poultry. “We had a long discussion on ground product,” says Audrey Adamson, NPPC’s vice president of domestic policy issues, “but those products are used differently than muscle meats.”
The question now is, how will consumers respond, and will they catch on to this new recommendation. It won’t be easy and will take a commitment of years, Wagstrom acknowledged. “That will be a generational shift.”
Also, getting people to use a thermometer is an on-going challenge, Wagstrom noted.
Education efforts will be directed to Americans from 8th-grade home-ec classes to current cooks, she added. “We are working with thermometer companies to help them recalibrate their temperature recommendations.”
Just this week, the National Pork Board directors approved $500,000 to work with educators and to help get the information out, said Mike Wegner, NPB’s vice president of communications.
“Producer groups and FSIS will work to get the message out,” said Adamson. “And that will include online ads, messages with the Food Channels, magazines and chiefs, among other things.”