By Stanley A. Fishman, author of Tender Grassfed Meat
Why didn’t you include pork in your book? That is the most frequent question I get about Tender Grassfed Meat. The answer is simple. It is very hard to find pork that has enough fat. And it is even harder to find pork that is not fed a substantial amount of soy. Lean pork needs a lot of help or it invariably turns out dry and tasteless. Even with a lot of help, it is hard to do better than mediocre, which is not good enough. Soy fed meat is something I try to avoid. The problems are interrelated, because feeding soy to pigs makes their meat leaner. That said, naturally fed, fat pork is one of the most delicious meats you will ever eat.
The Popularity of Pork
Pork has historically been one of the most popular and widely eaten meats. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese had one thing in common. They all loved pork, which was their favorite meat. Pork was also the favorite and most widely available meat in Europe, and Polynesia. The Georgians of the Caucasus, a people famed for their longevity, love to eat pork, the fatter the better. Pork was without doubt the favorite meat in America, until the 20th century.
The Natural Diet of Pigs
Pigs are omnivores, who will eat anything. Pigs are forest animals, and their natural diet was based largely on nuts, fruits, and seeds that fell to the forest floor, as well as insects. Pigs used to be raised around forests, which allowed them to feed on the nuts of various trees, such as acorns and beechnuts, (also known as mast). When the forest wasn’t available, pigs were often fed surplus crops, table scraps, and nut crops such as peanuts. Both of these diets made it easy for the pigs to get fat, which gave their meat succulence and kept it from drying out. Pigs fed on mast had a particularly fine flavor, often varying depending on the predominant tree in the area. For example, acorn fed pork had a different flavor from beechnut fed pork. However, pigs fed crops, such as peanuts and apples, also had plenty of fat, and a wonderful flavor based on the crops they were eating. Smithfield hams, which were made from peanut fed pork, were renowned for their fine flavor all over the world. The taste of the pork was heavily influenced by the diet of the pigs.
Soy Rears Its Ugly Head
The wonderful quality of American pork was destroyed by an event and a new kind of feed. The event was the advent of the so-called lipid hypothesis, which claimed that heart disease was caused by eating saturated animal fat. This hypothesis was never proven, but was accepted as fact, first by the manufacturers of vegetable oils and artificial fats, then by the marketing influenced medical profession, then by the government, then by the media, and then by almost everybody else. Since the pork of the time had a good amount of fat, (which is one of the main reasons it tasted so good), pork sales plummeted. The pork industry decided to greatly reduce the fat in pork. They learned that feeding soy to pigs would make the meat much leaner. Soy feed was very cheap. They also bred pigs for leanness. The pork industry succeeded in developing much leaner pork—pork that was so lean that they compared it to chicken breasts. This “success” is the reason that most American pork is lean, dry, tough, and tasteless. It takes a great deal of work to make this pork even mildly tender and tasty.
On a very few occasions, I have been lucky enough to eat pork that had the traditional amount of fat, and was not fed soy. This meat was so tender and delicious that it is hard to believe it is even remotely related to soy fed lean pork. I truly believe that soy feeding ruins the taste of pork.
A Request to Farmers
I ask you to make good, fat, naturally fed, soy-free pork available again. I think you will find that there is a great market for this product. There are so many of us that want to get soy out of our diet. If you will make quality pork available, I will recreate recipes for this pork that will do it justice. That’s a promise.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.
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