This blog is partially sponsored by the National Pork Board where I travelled to learn more about pork farming in South Dakota in June 2017. I also attended a conference called Food3000 in early August where pork was not part of the program, but I used my experiences from that trip to add to this blog.
I have a confession. As a child and tween I was served somewhat of a variety of foods. My mother knows I tease about the fact that we ate many meals in rotation: tuna noodle casserole, spaghetti with a side of frozen corn (thawed and cooked), grilled cheese and her infamous…pork chop suey. The pork looked gray to me and was combined with canned veggies and served over white rice. She topped the meal with crispy chow mein noodles. This is my main memory of “pork in my early years”. She nods and chuckles at this now since I only state the facts here. Fast forward a few years and I took a hiatus from meat in my teens and early twenties. It didn’t taste good to me—but ‘was it prepared correctly?’ is what I ask myself now. When I worked as a salad and pastry chef in college, I took a swift taste of a pork or beef dish when I was starving as a poor working student. I dared not tell my nutrition-vegetarian friends. It tasted amazing to me…I was hungry and it was prepared properly.
Now as a mother and omnivore with a passion for families as well as respect for chefs and farmers, I love learning more about what US farmers do for us as consumers. In Florida where I have lived most of my adult life, we have citrus, beef and dairy, but pork farms-?--not so much. When I had the opportunity to learn more about US pork farmers this summer, I jumped at the chance……because if you love lean protein like I do…then you want to know more about how pork is raised and is then part of our meals.
What stuck with me the most on the tour was this: the passion that the farmers have for the pigs from gestation to selling for harvest. Like most farmers of animals, pig farmers take pride in the quality of life of their animals. Many people think that all animals should live free range in the wild. What came to my mind on this trip is this: I can camp in the wild with my family for a few days, but to be honest I would rather sleep in a hotel. Pigs are the same! They love the hotel of the pig farms where the environment is temperature controlled, the food is served right when they need it and they each have enough space to be just social enough with each other. I can relate!
I also attended a conference a few weeks ago in Copenhagen and I was surprised to find out that pork is the main source of protein in Denmark as well (close to fish and seafood, which was what I expected.) On the plane heading over I sat next to pig farmer engineers from Kansas going to work for a week with Danish pork agriculture experts. I learned from them how important pork is to the Danes (more pigs than people!) as it is to Americans. Those farmers were not part of my trip, but we had a lot in common!
What is your favorite recipe for pork? Bacon, you say? I know many enjoy bacon, but my favorite recipe so far is to make a fruit chutney and serve over grilled boneless pork tenderloin, which is just as lean as boneless, skinless chicken breast. The quickest recipe for chutney:
2 cups of fresh, quartered figs or fresh diced mango
1 small onion (any kind), diced
1-2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
¼ cup diced whole lemon
¼-1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
¼-1/3 cup diced dried fruit (apricot, cherries or pineapple)
½ cup apple cider vinegar
Stir all together in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve warm or chill in glass jar up to a week.
How was your summer? Let me know what you cooked for your family and if you learned anything new!