Pork: The Other White Meat

— Written By and last updated by Patricia Burch
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I typically preach about consuming fruits and vegetables and the importance of incorporating other food groups around these nutrient-rich foods. Today I am choosing to focus on a food that has been in the press quite a bit lately, but also one that is produced locally throughout our county. Pork is a versatile meat that can be cooked and seasoned in a multitude of ways, providing different flavors and textures for all to enjoy. When we think about healthy diets, especially those that are ranked as healthy dietary patterns from reputable sources such as the US News and World Report, we tend to think of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats such as poultry and fish. However, another healthy lean meat option we tend to miss is lean pork.

In 1987, the Pork The Other White Meat campaign from the National Pork Board helped to raise consumer awareness of how lean pork can actually be. In fact, some cuts of pork, such as pork tenderloin, is now as lean as skinless chicken breast. The pork tenderloin is certified as heart-healthy by the American Heart Association, meaning it contains less than 6.5 grams of fat, 1 gram or less of saturated fat and 480 milligrams or less of sodium per label serving. The top lean cuts of pork include sirloin pork chop, ribeye pork chop, porterhouse pork chop, New York pork chop, New York pork roast, pork tenderloin, and ground pork (98% lean). Along with protein, pork is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, selenium, niacin, vitamin B6 and phosphorous. It’s also a good source of nutrients such as riboflavin, zinc, and potassium.

In addition to the many benefits of eating lean cuts of pork, pork can also be cooked to a lower temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2011, studies reported that 145 degrees Fahrenheit is a safe internal temperature for whole-muscle cuts of pork that also results in a juicy and tender meat. This summer I took an Environmental Health graduate course and learned that this new temperature of 145 is partly in place due to the safe growing practices placed upon the hog farming industry. This lower temperature results in a better and more enjoyable eating experience when consuming pork. Upon cooking, measure the internal temperature of the pork cut with a digital thermometer and allow it to rest for 3 minutes. If cooking ground pork, the safe internal temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pork is a delicious, and nutritious meat to add to your diet. Be sure to choose leaner cuts of pork, even trimming the fat from meat before cooking, for a healthy diet.

Here is a delicious pork tenderloin recipe from the American Heart Association that includes fresh, in-season produce.

Basil Pork Tenderloin with Black Bean Salsa



2 tablespoons chopped, seeded tomato

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt


1 1-pound pork tenderloin, all visible fat discarded

Cooking spray


1 15-ounce can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup chopped, seeded tomato

1 medium green onion, sliced

2 tablespoons minced fresh basil

1 tablespoon finely snipped fresh Italian (or flat-leaf) parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Cooking Instructions:

For the marinade, put the 2 tablespoons tomato in a small bowl. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press gently on the pieces to bruise them and release some of their juice. Stir in the remaining marinade ingredients.

Put the pork in a medium glass baking dish. Spoon the marinade over the pork. Turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly spray a roasting pan and rack with cooking spray.

Drain the pork, discarding the marinade. Put the pork on the roasting rack, tucking the ends under if they are thin. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the pork reaches 160°F for medium doneness. Remove from the oven. Cover with aluminum foil and let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into slices about 3/4 inch thick.

While the pork stands, in a medium bowl, stir together the salsa ingredients. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes so the flavors blend. Spoon onto plates. Arrange the pork slices on the salsa.