From crispy pata at Sunday lunch to grilled liempo with after-office drinks and whole lechon at practically any festive occasion, Filipinos sure have a lot of love for pork. But it’s not just Pinoys—pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world, accounting for 36% of meat consumption, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
But this massive demand means that in their quest to get a piece of the profit pie, some producers may resort to unsafe or inhumane practices. Growth hormones as well as cramped and unhygienic breeding conditions are just some causes for concern.
So how do you know that you’re getting good quality, organic pork? The surest way is to get your pork from a trusted supplier.
Healthy Options Pork: Ensuring Quality
Pork is meat that comes from pigs (around 6 to 7 months old) and has six basic or primal cuts: head (cheeks, mask, jowl, tongue), shoulder (Boston butt, picnic steak), belly (spare ribs, bacon), loin (chops, baby back ribs), ham (sirloin), and tenderloin. You are assured that you’re getting the best quality of pork when you buy it from Healthy Options because of the rigorous standards in selecting our partner farmers.
To ensure the quality of our pork, Healthy Options follows a farm-to-store process that involves a potential partner audit; pork standards education; laboratory tests at various points in the supply chain to check for antibiotic, heavy metals, artificial growth hormones, microbial load, and parasites; safe, clean, and humane slaughtering practices; careful handling and fabrication of pork cut; and proper storage in closely monitored temperatures.
Clueless when it comes to picking out pork? Follow these guidelines when selecting pork cuts:
- Go for pork with a pinkish-red color. Avoid meat that is pale has liquid in the package.
- Look for pork that has marbling or small flecks of fat. Marbling is what adds flavor.
- Avoid choosing any meat that has dark-colored bone.
- Check the fat. It should be white with no dark spots.
- Take a sniff. Fresh and good quality pork is absent of any sour, putrid or metallic off-odors.
Food Safety at Home
Your careful selection of pork will all go to waste if you don’t practice food safety at home. The number one mistake people make when it comes to meat is allowing it to thaw at room temperature for more than two hours or dipping it in hot water. These methods create a breeding ground for bacteria, potentially exposing you to foodborne illnesses.
There are three safe ways to thaw pork at home, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture:
In the fridge (10 to 24 hours):
Place frozen pork on a plate in the refrigerator to prevent juices from dripping onto other foods. Best to place the thawing food on the bottom shelf or below ready-to-eat foods. This is the safest way to thaw meat. The slow process of melting ice crystals results in lesser damage in the cell walls of the meat, which means you get higher nutritional quality by preventing the leaching of proteins and vitamins, and you also get tender meat by preventing the loss of too much water. Note that thawed ground meat and stew meat can last 1 to 2 days in the fridge; other cuts can last 3 to 5 days.
In cold water (30 minutes to 3 hours):
Place the pork in a leak-proof bag, submerge in cold tap water, and change the water every 30 minutes until the pork is thawed—this is important to prevent the growth of bacteria. You can use pork thawed this way within 4 hours. If you decide not to consume it right away, make sure you cook it before freezing.
In the microwave (4 to 30 minutes):
In a rush? Microwaving pork is the fastest way to defrost it, but your pork could end up dry and partially cooked. If you’re thawing a big batch, make sure you thaw equal sizes in a dish. Pause every now and then to stir or turn the pork over for even defrosting. Then wait a few seconds before taking food out to reabsorb the meat juices. Note that microwave-thawed meat must be cooked immediately.
While choosing a retailer that adheres to strict pork quality standards is important, it’s just as important to do your part and practice food safety at home when you bring home the bacon.
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Pork cheeks are the strips of meat that sit in the basin of the cheek below the eyes. Cooked properly, the meat falls apart at the touch of a fork, remains succulent and delivers a very moreish pork flavour. It yields very lean meat that comes with a lovely tender texture.
Pork mask consists of pork ears, rind and part of the cheeks.
Pork jowl is a cut of pork from the head of the pig's cheek. It tastes and cooks similar to thick-cut bacon and is a tough cut that is typically smoked and cured.
Boston butt, or pork butt, is a cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the shoulder from the front leg and may contain the blade bone. It's the most common cut used for pulled pork.
Pork picnic steaks are steaks cut from the shoulder of the pig. Part of the meat is tender and there could be tough parts.
Rib chops are tender and have a light flavor – and also have a little more fat than pork loin. Rib chops should be cooked quickly – high heat roasted, fried, seared, grilled, or broiled and not overcooked.
Spare ribs are taken from the belly side of the rib cage. This pork cut is flatter and contains more bone than meat, but more fat that can make the ribs more tender than back ribs.
Pork sirloin steak is a very lean, tender piece of meat that's mild in flavor. It's best used for grilling, smoking and slow roasting.