Pigs don’t ‘pig out,’ and other fun facts about pork

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023

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Last week, we learned a few interesting facts about pork, and some of the disadvantages of consuming it. This week, I’d like to clear up some of the confusion surrounding consumers’ perception of pork products as being unhealthful.

Folks tend to be of only one of two minds when it comes to pork. There are those who are religiously prohibited from consuming pork, because of the belief that it is “unclean,” while some abstain because of the way animals tend to eat or are treated. On the other side, there are those who greatly enjoy “the other white meat,” including traditional cultures like the Okinawans and Caucasian Georgians, who consume pork most every day.  

Pork can actually be a very beneficial addition to most diets, as it is a great source of  many crucial nutrients. All meats consist of protein, and pork is no exception. Pork contains high concentrations of amino acids, which are the constituents of proteins. In fact, pork contains all nine essential amino acids. These are referred to as essential because they cannot be synthesized by the body, therefore they must be obtained through diet. The protein content of lean, cooked pork is around 26%, making it one of the richest dietary protein sources. 

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Now, from a lean-to-fat ratio standpoint, the pork loin would be the cut of choice, yet ground pork actually carries the most protein by weight, with 22 grams for every three ounces consumed. While ground pork can yield a higher fat content than other portions, it’s a protein-rich and tasty swap for ground beef. Pork contains the amino acid beta-alanine, helping the body form a compound called carnosine, which is important for muscle function as it buffers against muscle lactic acid buildup, thus alleviating fatigue and soreness.  

Even when compared to beef, pork is richer in almost every nutrient except zinc and iron. Pork supplies vitamin D, vitamin B1, selenium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and choline, plus polyunsaturated fatty acids that help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which can lower the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Here’s more information on pork and a few facts about the pig that you might not know. 

The U.S. exports 4.9 billion pounds of pork per year, making it the world’s largest exporter of pork, while Americans consume on average 52 pounds of pork each year, per capita. The top five pork-producing states in the U.S. are Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Illinois and Indiana. 

About 30% of pork is consumed as cooked fresh meat, and the remainder is cured or smoked for bacon and ham used in sausage and rendered to produce lard.  

Insulin and around 40 other medicines are made from pigs. 

Unlike humans who have 32 teeth, pigs have 44. Pigs have 15,000 taste buds, compared to humans who have 9,000. Additionally, pigs can run up to 11.5 mph, while the average man runs at 8 mph and the average woman runs at 6.5 mph. Pigs can also run a 7-minute mile…want to race? 

Contrary to the popular saying, pigs don’t “pig out.” Instead, they prefer to eat slowly and savor their food. They eat mainly tree leaves, grass, ferns, roots, fruits, flowers, dead insects, worms and tree bark. Pigs are peaceful animals, rarely showing aggression. The exception, as with many animals, is when a mother (sow) with her young offspring is provoked or threatened. Folks with allergies sometimes have pigs as pets, because they have hair, not fur. They are highly social and intelligent animals that are trainable. 

The phrase “living high on the hog,” originated among army enlisted men referring to the top loin cuts that officers received, while the enlisted received shoulder and leg cuts.

Thank you to all the readers who’ve signed up for the free nutrition and fitness consultations. Sign-up will continue throughout January. The consultations are indeed free, but you must sign up via my email.

David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at dwcrocker77@gmail.com or text to 864-494-6215.