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Meta Description: Fresh pork muscle is 70–75% water and the protein content ranges from 18 to 22%.  Lipid or fat is another major constituent of fresh pork. It makes up between 5 and 7% of the muscle tissue The carbohydrate content of meat is negligible, generally less than 1%. Vitamin and mineral content of fresh pork is usually about 1–2%.

Keywords: Pork, pork products, food safety, processed meat, cancer, healthy eating, healthy food


The earliest known records of swine domestication are from China and date to 4900 bc. Christopher Columbus brought the first pigs to the USA via the Canary Islands in 1493. The early colonists of the USA brought livestock with them from England throughout the 1600s. Gradually, as more grain was grown, larger herds of pigs developed and swine production became a true industry.

The advent of mechanical refrigeration led to industry expansion as pork could be processed year-round and kept fresh longer. Development of rail systems and the use of refrigerated rail carriages boosted industry growth as both livestock and meat could be more widely distributed. In the 1800s, pigs were often allowed to roam free in pastures and were fed garbage or what little grain was available. Today, most pigs are raised in large numbers in environmentally controlled buildings with a very specific diet designed to maximize growth.

Fresh pork muscle is 70–75% water and the protein content ranges from 18 to 22%.  Lipid or fat is another major constituent of fresh pork. It makes up between 5 and 7% of the muscle tissue The carbohydrate content of meat is negligible, generally less than 1%. Vitamin and mineral content of fresh pork is usually about 1–2%.

Nutrient Value and Dietary Significance of Pork:

Pork supplies many nutrients essential for maintenance and growth.  As with other meat, pork is an excellent source of protein. A single 85 g serving of pork contributes 41% of the daily protein requirement for a normal adult male. Not only does pork contain a large amount of protein, but this protein is also of good quality.  Pork also contains lipids and fats. About 34% of pork fatty acids are saturated and 66% are unsaturated. Cholesterol is another lipid found in pork. Cholesterol is found in cell membranes in the animal body and is synthesized in the liver of humans and animals. Consumption of animal products, therefore, provides a dietary source of cholesterol which can be used in the body. Cholesterol, like saturated fats, has been associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease. The relationship is not well understood, but the American Heart Association recommends keeping dietary intake of cholesterol to less than 300 mg daily. One 85-g serving of pork provides about 79 mg of cholesterol or about 26% of the recommended 300 mg.

Pork is an excellent food source for several vitamins and minerals. It supplies large amounts of thiamin, vitamin B12, niacin, riboflavin, and zinc. Pork is also a good source of vitamin B6, phosphorus, and iron. Dietary iron can be classified into two types, heme and nonheme. Heme iron, which is the major type found in pork, is absorbed more easily and better utilized by the body. Iron is a component of the molecule hemoglobin, which is the major carrier of oxygen in our bloodstream. Intake of heme iron is especially important in warding off anemia, which may result from a low level of hemoglobin in the blood. Pork, when consumed in moderation, is an excellent source of many important dietary nutrients.

Table 1 Pork storage recommendations

Table 1 Pork storage recommendations1


Refrigerator (2-4 ) Freezer (18)
Fresh pork 4 days2 3–6 months3
Cured pork 7 days 2 months


  1. Packaging and handling prior to the consumer will greatly impact shelflife of pork.
  1. Ground meat, 2 days.
  2. Ground meat, 1–2 months.

Microbiological and Other Hazards

Muscle is essentially sterile prior to death. However, meat destined for human consumption is cross-contaminated with microorganisms by equipment and handling at the time of slaughter and processing. Just as pork is an excellent source of nutrients for our bodies, muscle or meat is also an excellent growth medium for microorganisms. Controlling the growth of microorganisms on pork by acidifying, curing, salting, modified-atmosphere packaging, drying, cooking, or refrigerating is essential.

Food poisoning can result from consuming pork that has been mishandled, allowing certain microorganisms to grow. Causative organisms of food poisoning may include Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Yersinia enterocolitica, Clostridium botulinum, C. perfringens, and Campylobacter fetus ssp. jejuni. Food poisoning is quite common and, in its mildest forms, is often mistaken for influenza because the symptoms are very similar. Generally, foodborne illnesses are relatively short-lived and more uncomfortable than harmful. However, food poisoning can be a very serious matter. It can be debilitating or even fatal for those with poor immunological defenses such as infants or the elderly. Like other microorganisms, pathogens which cause food poisoning are well controlled by heat, refrigeration, chemicals, or other means mentioned earlier. However, undercooking, improper cooling or recontamination of cooked food by raw food are common ways that pathogens appear in the food supply.


Of particular concern in pork is the parasitic nematode T. spiralis. This organism forms a cyst in porcine

muscle. The organism can be transmitted to humans who consume the contaminated pork but is readily

destroyed by heating the muscle to 62℃. Processing plants that sell pork which is not likely to be cooked again are required to heat or freeze the meat to certify that it is trichina-free.

Pork-slaughtering and processing plants have rigid sanitation programs that allow the production of safe food. Good sanitation at the plant and proper handling throughout the food chain help keep microbial growth under control. Plants producing pork must keep processing temperatures below 10 ℃ or stop production and sanitize the equipment every 8 h. Most plants keep their working temperature low enough to require cleaning and sanitizing only once every 24 h.

Despite all the in-plant efforts to control microorganisms, pork can still be contaminated or growth of microorganisms already present can occur as a result of product abuse in the warehouse, on the delivery truck, in the retail outlet, or in the home. Perishable foods should always be frozen or refrigerated at temperatures below 4 ℃. Once cooked, pork should be kept above 60 ℃ or quickly cooled to under 4 ℃. Many microorganisms grow rapidly in the temperature range of 4–60 ℃. Two very common mishandling problems that occur in the home are failing to refrigerate leftovers promptly and recontaminating cooked product by using the same utensils used with the raw product.

To minimize microbiological hazards and maximize eating quality, the recommendations in Table 1 have been devised as maximum limits for storage of pork. Molds and yeasts are of little concern in fresh pork because the high water activity allows bacteria to dominate. In dried pork items such as pepperoni, molds may grow on the surface. However, mold growth is retarded by a potassium sorbate dip applied by the manufacturer or by vacuum packaging.


Very few other hazards exist with the consumption of pork. Muscle from pigs is regularly monitored for drug and pesticide residues by the USDA. Incidences of contaminated meat have been isolated and total far less than 1% of the pork supply.



Potential health hazards of eating pork and pork products

  1. Increased Cancer Risk from Bacon and Other Processed Pork

According to the World Health Organization, processed meat like ham, bacon, and sausage causes cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer actually classifies processed meat as a carcinogen, something that causes cancer. Researchers found that consuming 50 grams of processed meat each day raises your risk of colorectal cancer by a very significant 18 percent.


Processed meat is considered to be food items like ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and some deli meats. Noticing a theme here? Those are mainly pork-derived food products. How much-processed meat is 50 grams? That’s about four strips of bacon. Maybe you’re thinking that you only eat two pieces of bacon regularly. According to this research, that would likely equate to a 9 percent increase of cancer likelihood.


Unfortunately, pork and processed meat are often consumed by folks following the keto diet, as well as the Atkins diet, for example. Instead, they should be using healthier meat like beef, lamb, bison or chicken.


  1. Exposure to Hepatitis E. Pork products, particularly liver, frequently carries hepatitis E, which can cause severe complications and even death in vulnerable populations. Thorough cooking is necessary to deactivate the virus.
  2. Liver Cancer and Cirrhosis. Strong epidemiological links exist between pork consumption and liver disease. If these links reflect cause and effect, one culprit might be N-nitroso compounds, which are found abundantly in processed pork products cooked at high temperatures.


  1. 4. Exposure to Yersinia. Undercooked pork can transmit Yersinia bacteria, causing short-term illness and raising the risk of reactive arthritis, chronic joint conditions, Graves’ disease, and other complications.