General information and classification

Pork meat is classified as “white meat”, as, after slaughter, it takes on a much lighter color than that of “red meat”: beef, horse, sheep, etc. and “black meat” or game: fallow deer, wild boar, deer, hare, pheasant etc.; together with pork, they fall into the same category: chicken, turkey, rabbit, veal, lamb, young goat, etc. Some authors, however, include pork in the red meat group, especially as regards meat cuts from adult specimens and preserved ones.
Pork meat NEEDS complete cooking, i.e. that it reaches the heart of the food; This measure is necessary for two reasons:

  • Pork, like other white meats, reaches its maximum organoleptic and gustatory properties when cooked; undercooking the pork would penalize its flavour.
  • Pork meat is subject to parasitosis (which affects the live animal) and bacterial contamination (during slaughter); only complete cooking eliminates its harmfulness.

Pork meat can be classified according to 4 methods:

  1. Age of the slaughtered animal: pork takes on different characteristics depending on the animal's diet and the development of muscle mass. It can be deduced that the meat of a suckling pig (pork of maximum 3 months, 25kg in weight), compared to that of an adult pig (110-180kg), is significantly different both in consistency (more tender) and in taste ( less intense).
  2. Breeding method: pigs can be raised at home or industrially; regarding the latter type, the following are further differentiated: intensive, extensive and organic. Home farming produces better quality pork, while intensive industrial farming tends to offer a less appreciable product (as well as requiring a greater use of drugs). On the other hand, extensive industrial farming represents a good compromise between profitability and production costs, while pork obtained from organic farms (despite being of very good quality) stands out for its decidedly higher and not always sustainable costs. The difference between the 4 types of pork mainly concerns the flavor and the quantity of muscle water (greater in intensively bred animals).
  3. Normal feeding or supercharging: pig breeding can be aimed at slaughtering a heavy or light animal; while the heavy pig is older and heavily overfed (it can reach almost 180-200 kg in weight), the light one rarely exceeds 100-110kg. The heavy pig is therefore much fatter and is intended for the production of preserved meat (sausages and salted meats), on the contrary, the light one represents the primary source of fresh meat ready for consumption.
  4. Pork size: as with all other animals, a distinction between the various sizes is used in the pig too. After slaughter, the animal is then divided into several parts; Below we will list them all, but without going into too much detail:
    1. Testa: divided into lean, bones and fat; the pig's head is used both for food production and for the production of protein flours for zootechnical use
    2. Throat and cheek: they are made up of the fat from the section between the head and the shoulder; these parts are essential in the packaging of raw and cooked sausages but can also be used for the production of a very fine cured meat.
    3. Shoulder: from this portion of the pig a meat is obtained suitable for the production of a cooked salami called “cooked shoulder” (very similar to cooked ham); you can also obtain the rump (for salami) and the muscle (for cotechino, pot salami, frankfurters, etc.).
    4. Pancetta: it is the front part of the side; it can be distinguished into a lean part and a fat part. The fatty one is ideal for the production of rolled bacon, stretched bacon, etc., while the “lean” bacon represents a classic cut of fresh fatty pork meat.
    5. Thigh: it is the finest cut of pork. It is used for the production of raw ham, cooked ham or even for salami, but it does not look bad if broken down into the various muscles and used as fresh lean pork meat.
    6. Coppa or capocollo: properly cleaned, it is one of the ingredients of salami and cooked ham; they also constitute a fatty portion of fresh pork meat.
    7. Loin or lonza: it is divided into three parts: loin, loin and capocollo (the latter already described). The loin is generally dedicated to the production of chops, while the loin is intended for the production of boneless steaks; they are both to be classified among fresh and lean pork meats.
    8. Legs: they are emptied and used as a container for the zampone.
    9. Grasso: divided into lard, lard, perirenal fat (or suet), back fat, throat fat. They are all used for the preparation of raw and cooked sausages except the suet which, after processing, is destined to become lard.
    10. Rind: it is the skin of the pig previously cleaned and scraped. If ground, it becomes part of the cotechino and zampone, while the excess becomes animal gelatin. The rind is a fatty cut as it includes subcutaneous fat; by eliminating the latter, the rind would not be excessively caloric.
    11. Offal: they constitute (along with the rind, bones, blood, bristles, nails and visceral fat) the fifth quarter of the pig and have totally different applications; offal must be evaluated one by one as they have completely heterogeneous nutritional characteristics. On average, offal constitutes pork that is high in cholesterol, but not necessarily high in calories. What is left over after slaughter and the production of cured meats is used for the production of animal meal.

Hygienic aspects

As mentioned above, fresh pork is a white meat that requires thorough cooking; RAW cured meats and sausages, on the other hand, are produced with processes that prevent bacterial proliferation during the entire conservation period, even if this does not exclude that the meat may be infested beforehand or infected during slaughter (which is why raw cured meats and sausages are totally contraindicated in the diet of pregnant women).
From a microbiological point of view, pork is generally prone to bacterial contamination of: Salmonella e Yersinia enterocolica; furthermore, considering the propensity of the animal in question to parasites, it cannot be excluded that its meat may contain: Trichinella spiralis e Toxoplasma gondii.
We remind you once again that the only method to guarantee the healthiness of pork is total cooking, i.e. it reaches the heart of the food and exceeds a temperature of 70°C.

Nutritional characteristics

FRESH pork meat is a product of animal origin that contains an excellent quantity of proteins with high biological value and provides a variable lipid ration especially based on the type of pork (light or heavy) and the designated size; fatty cuts of heavy pork can reach and exceed 300kcal (e.g. fresh bacon), while lean cuts of light pork do not much exceed 100-140kcal (e.g. leg or loin).
Being a product of animal origin, pork contains cholesterol and fatty acids (which make up triglycerides) mainly of the saturated type. NB. Both saturated fatty acids and cholesterol represent an unfavorable element for the metabolism of cholesterol, as they tend to increase the bad cholesterol circulating in the blood (LDL cholesterol); this means that, in case of hypercholesterolemia, pork (but not only pork) is a food to be consumed with moderation.
Pork meat provides good quantities of water-soluble vitamins such as: thiamine, riboflavin and niacin, and there is no shortage of mineral salts that are very useful to the body such as: iron, potassium and phosphorus.


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