Pork is the culinary term to describe meat from the domestic pig (Sus domesticus). It is a product that is consumed globally and is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide. Evidence of pig husbandry dates back as far as 5000 B. C. E.
Pork is consumed in several forms including cooked (pork roasts), cured (bacon prosciutto), smoked or a combination of these methods (gammon, pancetta, etc.). It is also a common component of most sausages. Charcuterie is a term used to describe the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, many of which are derived from pork.
Pork is considered a taboo food in Islam, Judaism and several Christian sects.
Pork is one of the most widely consumed meats in the world. It accounts for around 38% of meat production worldwide although actual consumption rates vary from place to place.
The People's Republic of China accounts for the bulk of pork consumption, with almost 52.5 metric tons being consumed. The EU25 region comes in a distant second with consumption of 20.1 metric tons. The United States consumed around 9.0 metric tons and the Russian Federation and Japan trailing with 2.6 and 2.5 metric tons, respectively.
Pork is very popular in eastern Asian and Pacific regions; whole roasted pig is very popular in Pacific Island cuisine. It is prepared and consumed in many different ways and is one of the most esteemed foods in Chinese cuisine. In China, pork is preferred over beef for both economic and aesthetic reasons; the pig is easier to feed and is not used for labor. The color of pork flesh and the fat are regarded as being more appetizing and the taste and smell are regarded as being sweeter and cleaner. It is also considered easier to digest.
Pork can be cooked from fresh meat or cured over time. The carcass can be used in many ways for fresh cuts, with the popularity of particular cuts and certain carcass proportions varying globally.
Most of the carcass can be used to produce fresh meat. When suckling pigs are demanded, the whole body of a young pig ranging in age from two to six weeks is roasted.
Much of the pork in Western society is cured in some fashion. It is commonly regarded as a main ingredient in sausages. European sausages such as chorizo, fuet, Cumberland sausage and salami are made from pork. American hot dogs and most breakfast sausages are derived from pork, as well.
Ham and bacon are two other popular cuts of pork, both of which are produced either through pickling or smoking. Both of these products are beloved in Western cultures and their consumption can be directly attributed to industrialization. However, non-Western cultures use preserved pork products - an example would be salted preserved pork and red roasted pork being used in Chinese and Asian cuisine.
The practice of charcuterie is also responsible for preparing many other food items derived from pork. Bacon, ham, sausages, terrines, galantines, confit, rillettes, trotters, headcheese and pâtés can all be found in the charcutier's pantheon.
Pork has always had a stigma of being a fatty and unhealthy meat. This is patently untrue when regarding today's modern pork products. Pork husbandry of times past rendered hogs that produced very fatty meat, even in the supposed 'leaner' cuts. Today's pork husbandry yields hogs that produce leaner meat than ever and has been coined 'the other white meat.' Ounce for ounce, a serving of pork has less fat than a chicken breast.
Pork is high in protein and is an excellent source of B vitamins; it has a naturally high level of thiamin (vitamin B1). It has a higher level of fat, but depending on what cut is consumed, the actual amount of saturated fat will vary. Pork also contains many different essential amino acids such as lysine, valine, tryptophan, alanine and serine.
Pork has a naturally high water content with almost 58 grams of water present in a 3.5 oz. serving. High levels of vitamin B6 and B12 are present, with 36% and 29%, respectively. Pork is also high in phosphorus and zinc, as well. Other trace elements include iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium.
Undercooked or untreated pork can pose a number of health risks. Pork can also be easily recontaminated after cooking. Microorganisms such as listeria, E. coli, salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus can be found in pork that has not been handled properly.
Pigs can also be carriers of helminths (worms). Some types found can include roundworms, hookworms, pinworms and one of the most dangerous - tapeworms. Tapeworms can be spread to humans in undercooked or untreated pork and can be fatal if left untreated.
Pork has also been a suspect in cases of gastroenteritis, which can be found in various other foods, but tends to be traced back to pork; nearly all outbreaks of gastroenteritis in the United States have been linked to pork.