Pigs were probably first domesticated in China as early as 5000 B.C. Today, pork is still one of the most popular meats served throughout the world. The United States is one of the top producers and exports many pork products to other countries.
The production of pork in the U.S. has changed radically since Columbus first introduced pigs to the new world. The number of farms raising pigs has actually decreased in recent years, but farmers have been able to increase per capita production by using new breeding techniques. Many changes have also occurred in how these farms are designed and managed to reduce the environmental impact of swine production.
Although the pork industry has advertized pork as “the other white meat,” the USDA classifies pork as a red meat. Whether a meat is considered red or white is based on its myoglobin content. Myoglobin is a protein found in meat that creates a red pigment. The greater the myoglobin content, the redder the meat will appear. Pork contains more myoglobin than chicken, but less than beef, which is why the color of pork is redder than chicken yet pinker than beef.
Pork is a good source of protein, iron, zinc and many B vitamins. Through careful breeding, American pork producers have succeeded in reducing the overall fat content of pork by approximately 75 percent. If you look at photos of pigs produced 50 years ago and the animals grown today, you will be amazed at how “trim” and muscular the current animals are.
The exact calorie and fat content of a pork cut varies according to where it is found on the animal. The tenderloin is the leanest, with a 3-ounce serving containing 120 calories and 3 grams of fat, which is comparable to a skinless chicken breast. Other lean cuts include the loin roast, loin chops and ham. Canadian bacon is a great alternative to regular bacon since each 2-ounce serving contains just 86 calories and 4 grams of fat.
Many people concerned about their sodium intake have switched from cured pork to uncured, “fresh” pork, although some uncured pork now has sodium added during processing. To find out the sodium content of the pork you intend to purchase, look at the nutrition label on the package or ask the meat department clerk whether sodium-containing brines or other substances were added to the meat during processing. The difference between the untreated pork loin and the pork loin with added brine can be as much as 200 milligrams of sodium per 3-ounce serving.
Amelia’s Italian Pork Pita Pockets Recipe
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 8 thin boneless pork chops, about 2 ounces each
- 2 green or yellow bell peppers, each cut into 8 strips
- 2 portabella mushrooms, cut into 8 slices
- 1 large red onion, cut into 8 separate wedges
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed (optional)
- 8 whole wheat pita pocket bread halves
- 4 slices (1 ounce each) low-fat, part skim mozzarella cheese, cut in half
- Heat oven broiler. Coat a large baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange pork chops and vegetables in a single layer on the baking pan.
- In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and fennel seed. Brush mixture on both sides of pork.
- Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat for about six minutes, or until pork is browned and vegetables are crisp-tender. Warm the pita bread.
- Remove from the oven; divide the pork and vegetables among the pita pocket breads. Add one slice of cheese to each sandwich. Serve immediately.
Makes 8 half-sandwiches (4 servings)
Calories: 257, Carbohydrate: 22 grams, Protein: 23 grams, Fat: 9 grams, Saturated Fat: 3 grams, Cholesterol: 57 milligrams, Fiber: 4 grams, Sodium: 294 milligrams
Recipe adapted from a recipe on the Pork and Health Web site: https://www.porkandhealth.org/Recipe.aspx?id=1749.