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Get Real: Pressing Questions on Pork

**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.

As I’ve mentioned before I used to be in 4-H and one of my favorite memories was raising a pig for a year to take it to the fair. It was a terrific learning experience both educational and emotional. I learned to appreciate my meals especially when the meat  I was enjoying was treated humanely, had a good diet and most importantly a good life. Pork is now a special treat in our house, not only because pastured raised pork is hard to find at the store, but it is expensive unlike the pork chops I grew up on.

Here is a little Q&A session on pork:

Where can I find grass fed pork?

Well you can’t. Grass fed typically refers to beef since their natural diet consists of grass. However pigs are better known as “pasture raised”. Pigs are foragers and opportunistic when it comes to their diet. They eat what they can, vegetables, bugs, fruits, weeds, grass, corn etc. You can go to your local farmer’s market and see if there is anyone selling pork there. There are also a few online retailers where you can buy from.

What’s more important when buying pork: “Organic” or “Antibiotic & hormone free”?

This was my bag from Chipolte the other day. Fitting yes?

First choice is pasture raised, but as I mentioned it is extremely hard to find in your mainstream markets and is very expensive. Last time I checked at Whole Foods it was upwards of $7.50/lb for pork chops. Therefore I would opt to buy organic pork. The organic certification already implies that  the pigs were not treated with antibiotics or hormones. And they were only fed organic feed which is better than conventional corn fed pork. If organic is not available but you do see antibiotic and hormone free, it’s still better than conventional. Here is a great link to help you get through the labels at the store when it comes to finding the right pork.

What about nitrites and nitrates?

Sodium nitrite and nitrate are additives that were created to add to processed meats to add color and to prevent botulism. Seems harmless, however nitrite has been linked to cancer in your internal organs like the liver and pancreas. “Sodium nitrite is widely regarded as a toxic ingredient, and the USDA actually tried to ban this additive in the 1970′s but was vetoed by food manufacturers who complained they had no alternative for preserving packaged meat products.”

You’ll find more and more brands are now going away from nitrites and nitrates. Brands I personally like for hot dogs and bacon are Coleman and Applegate.

May Week One Action Item:

Each week we will try to give you some simple action steps to put this journey into practice. It is important that you start this journey by understanding yourself, your goals and perhaps your obstacles.
  1. Make it a point to pick up some pork this week at the store. Whether it be hot dogs, tenderloin, roast or pork chops. Read the labels and see if it meets the criteria we’ve outlined today. Then whip up one of your favorite pork recipes or one of ours and see if you can taste a difference!

May Get Real:

Please take a moment to thank our guest authors by clicking over to their sites and/or liking them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Sponsor:  Once A Month Mom

Guest Author: Vanessa of Chefdruck Musings


5 Responses to “Get Real: Pressing Questions on Pork”

  1. eWellness says:

    You pose some really valuable questions–what a great discussion. Dr. Greger, who specializes in nutrition, provides this kind of (simple and fun) nutrition info at NutritionFacts.org (his daily short videos are my favorite). Here are his videos and articles that displayed when I typed “pork” in the search bar (I bet “pig” and “swine” would bring up even more search results to review)… http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=pork

  2. Dani says:

    I have been enjoying your Get Real seris all year. Thank you for putting all of this info together in one place. My family farms in MD and we sell organic veggies, chicken and eggs and naturally raised beef, pork and goat. We found when we wanted to have our pork processed that it was extremely difficult to find a butcher that would do nitrate-free bacon and MSG-free sausage. We had to search for several weeks to find a butcher that fit our needs. We have struggled with the processing of all our animals–to have certified meat the butcher must be willing to process only organic meats at the same time and there are no butchers in our area willing to do this. Many people understand this and are willing to buy local, hormone and antiboiotic free meats and we are extremely grateful to all who buy from us either at the farm or at the farmers’ martket.

  3. Heather says:

    I loved that this was the topic this week because my local grocery store JUST started carrying Applegate meat. We tried the bacon and it was delicious! Thanks for doing this series!

  4. Anna says:

    I love the topics and discussion! Looking forward to more :). On a side note, I have recently started doing more research into the nitrates/nitrites information. I haven’t decided what my stance is on it yet but there have been recent studies that the Celery Juice they use is actually worse. Also I read a few articles on the amounts of nitrates in something like hot dogs vs. the amounts in normal veggies (where its actually much higher). I still haven’t made up my mind which is best, however I had no idea about these new studies. The research is never over :-(.

  5. Chi Chi says:

    Thank you for your italicized “warning” at the top. I am trying really, really hard to navigate my way through the real food movement, making small changes at a time. It helps when the overall attitude is healthy and helpful and not condescending. Thanks for the great info!

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