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Meat Perspectives: The evolution of pork quality

Statistics reveal that pork is the most widely consumed animal protein in the world. A review of scientific literature supports the international focus on research on a wide variety of pork production and processing topics. Pork’s versatility as fresh or processed cuts, and its use as a center-of-the-plate feature or as a key ingredient in so many products for the retail and foodservice channels highlights its importance in feeding the world.

Today’s pork is much different than yesteryear’s version. Older textbooks show photos of the “lard-type” hogs that were the mainstay of production through the middle of the 20th century. The next generation of hogs were termed “lean-type” to show the move to modern pork production. Today’s hogs are as lean as ever with the additional feature of being much larger and heavier than in the past.

Commercial pork production today is a big business. Growing the demand for pork products involves all sectors of the industry and an understanding of end-user expectations. Genetic companies are searching for the best lines and strategies to improve production efficiency. Modern state-of-the-art farrowing and finishing operations are controlling the environment and protecting animals from various biohazards. High-speed, high-capacity pork packing and processing facilities are designed to maximize production and to ensure the highest standards of quality and food safety.

Decades ago, with the opening of the Asian market for meat exports from the United States, the attention given to pork quality seemed to increase substantially. Pork quality is certainly not a new topic with landmark research still being widely cited today. With about 25% of US pork being exported today, satisfying a demanding marketplace, both domestically and internationally, is so important in maintaining pork’s market share and fulfilling consumer expectations.

ByJeff Savell and Kerri Gehring

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