Why Is Pork The Other White Meat? A Simple Guide

Pork. The other white meat.

You’ve probably heard this phrase before, but have you ever wondered why pork is classified as a white meat? Is it really a white meat or just a clever marketing ploy?

In this article, we’ll explore the history and science behind the labeling of pork as the other white meat. From its inception as a marketing campaign to its classification by culinary tradition and nutritionists, we’ll uncover the truth about pork and its place in the world of meats.

So sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the fascinating world of pork.

Why Is Pork The Other White Meat?

Before the 1980s, pork was not typically considered a white meat. However, in 1987, the National Pork Board launched a campaign to promote pork as a lean meat alternative. This campaign included the now-famous slogan “Pork. The other white meat.” The goal was to increase consumer demand for lower fat cuts of pork and to dispel pork’s reputation as a fatty protein.

The campaign was successful in positioning pork as a lean protein and an excellent choice for all meal occasions. In fact, a study conducted by Northwestern University in 2000 found “The Other White Meat” to be the fifth most memorable promotional tagline in the history of contemporary advertising.

But is pork really a white meat? According to culinary tradition, the term “white meat” refers to meat with a pale color both before and after cooking. Pork fits this definition and is therefore classified as a white meat in the culinary world.

However, from a nutritional standpoint, pork is considered a red meat. Meats are categorized as either white or red based on the amount of myoglobin found in the animal’s muscle. Myoglobin is a protein found in meat that produces a red color when it’s exposed to oxygen. Poultry and fish, both of which are considered white meat, have significantly less myoglobin than red meat.

Despite its classification as a red meat by nutritionists, pork is still often referred to as the other white meat due to its pale color before and after cooking. This labeling has helped to position pork as a lean protein option and has contributed to its popularity as the world’s most-consumed protein.

The Origins Of The Other White Meat Campaign

The “Pork. The Other White Meat” campaign was developed by advertising agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1987 for the National Pork Board. The agency was hired to research the facts about chicken and fresh pork and found that the nutritional profiles of the two meats were much more similar than anyone had believed. Thanks to the era’s leaner hogs, pork had become a versatile, healthy source of protein. However, pork still suffered from a severe consumer perception problem.

To address this problem, Bozell developed the “Pork. The Other White Meat” campaign as a competitive positioning platform. The goal was to stop people in their tracks and then explain how pork could be a white meat, since most considered it a red meat. The campaign featured provocative print and television advertisements with messages such as, “We lead you to temptation but deliver you from evil,” to help pork compete head-to-head with chicken.

The campaign was launched on March 2, 1987, with a series of television ads featuring ice-skating star Peggy Fleming as spokeswoman. The campaign also included print ads and Superbowl ads featuring celebrity chefs. These ads re-introduced Americans to pork-based dishes like pork cordon bleu, pork kabobs, and glazed pork tenderloin.

The campaign was paid for using a checkoff fee (tax) collected from the initial sale of all pigs and pork products, including imports. Almost immediately, the campaign was deemed a success. Eight out of ten Americans recognized the phrase “the other white meat,” which lodged itself in that special place in the American mind that holds slogans like “Got Milk?” and “Just Do It.” As a result, pork consumption rose by nearly 20% and reached $30 billion annually by 1991.

Since its inception, “The Other White Meat” has gained tremendous recognition from consumers. The tagline is a symbol of the successful evolution of lean pork products available today and its contribution to pork becoming the world’s most-consumed protein.

The Culinary Classification Of Pork

In culinary tradition, pork is considered a white meat. This is primarily due to its pale color before and after cooking. However, it’s important to note that this classification is based on appearance and not on any scientific or nutritional criteria.

From a scientific perspective, pork is actually classified as a red meat. This is because it contains more myoglobin than poultry and fish, which are considered white meats. Myoglobin is a protein that gives meat its color and produces a red hue when exposed to oxygen.

Additionally, as a farm animal, pork is classified as livestock, which is also considered red meat. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officially classifies pork as red meat, despite the culinary practice of referring to it as white meat.

It’s worth noting that the “other white meat” campaign launched by the National Pork Board in 1987 was purely a marketing strategy aimed at promoting pork as a lean protein option. The campaign helped to position pork as a healthier alternative to other red meats like beef and lamb.

The Science Behind Pork’s Nutritional Profile

Pork is a rich source of essential nutrients that are vital for maintaining good health. It is particularly high in thiamine, a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. Pork also contains significant amounts of selenium, an essential mineral that is important for proper thyroid function. Additionally, it is a good source of zinc, which is essential for a healthy brain and immune system.

Pork also contains vitamins B6 and B12, which are important for blood cell formation and brain function. Vitamin B12, in particular, is almost exclusively found in foods of animal origin and is crucial for blood formation and brain function. Deficiency in this vitamin can lead to anemia and damage to neurons.

Furthermore, pork is an excellent source of iron. While it contains less iron than lamb or beef, the absorption of meat iron (heme-iron) from your digestive tract is very efficient. This makes pork an outstanding source of iron.

In addition to these essential nutrients, pork contains niacin (vitamin B3), which serves various functions in the body and is important for growth and metabolism. It also contains phosphorus, which is essential for body growth and maintenance.

Processed and cured pork products, such as ham and bacon, contain high amounts of sodium. Therefore, it’s important to consume these products in moderation.

Comparing Pork To Other Meats: White, Red, And Beyond

When it comes to comparing pork to other meats, the classification of white versus red meat can be misleading. While pork is often considered a white meat due to its pale color, it is actually classified as a red meat by nutritionists because it contains more myoglobin than poultry and fish.

In terms of nutritional content, pork can vary greatly depending on the cut and preparation method. For example, pork tenderloin is a lean cut with low levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, making it a healthy protein option. However, processed pork products like sausages and bacon are high in sodium and unhealthy fats, making them less nutritious choices.

Comparing pork to other red meats like beef and lamb, pork generally has lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. However, it is still important to limit red meat consumption due to its link to heart disease.

When compared to white meats like chicken and fish, pork is often considered a tastier option but can be higher in fat and calories. It is important to choose lean cuts of pork and prepare them in a healthy way, such as grilling or baking, to keep the nutritional content in check.

The Future Of Pork And Its Place In The Meat Industry

The future of the pork industry looks promising, with global pig meat production projected to continue growing in the coming decade. However, the growth rate of pork production will not match that of the poultry industry. According to the latest Agricultural Outlook by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), world meat production is expected to increase from 345.2 million tonnes to 377.2 million tonnes between 2022 and 2031. Of this increase, 25.2% will be pig meat, which is significantly less than the 55.9% increase in poultry meat production.

The pork industry has undergone significant changes in response to pressures to compete both domestically and in export markets. The US pork industry, for example, has restructured itself in the past 25 years to remain competitive against other meats and competing nations such as Canada and Brazil. The industry has made major inroads in export markets and strengthened its position as one of the most competitive pork industries globally.

The global outbreak of African swine fever has resulted in a significant loss of pig populations, leading to a looming food crisis and changing protein consumption behavior from meat to alternative protein sources. The most vulnerable segment affected by these outbreaks are small holders of the pig population. Transforming the pig industry to medium- and large-scale farms, together with better standardized production systems and biosecurity measures, will facilitate future survival of the industry and contribute substantially to food security.