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Holidays are primetime for pork, the protein that packs a punch with Florida goodness

  • Pork is a staple in many countries and featured in many dishes eaten during end-of-year holiday celebrations.
  • Pork is a versatile protein that can be served center-of-the-plate or as part of a dish
  • If you’re looking to flex your cooking muscles by working with this mighty meat, UF/IFAS resources and experts are a good place to start.

FLORIDA – Serving pork is a popular meat choice. Whether its featured as bacon or sausage links, hocks or ribs, pork can be served in a variety of ways —  as center of the plate, a side dish, or a flavor-bursting ingredient in soups and stews.

End-of-year holidays are prime time for pork as a protein-packed staple and traditional meat for some cultures. Globally, pork is a cultural touchstone among Cubans, Germans, Eastern Europeans and many others. It can be prepared in many ways — stuffed pork loin, crown roast pork, glazed ham, braised pork, smoked pork, breaded pork. Cookbooks are filled with options and varieties. It’s no surprise that pork is one of the most eaten meats in the world – especially during the holidays.

In 2020, the value of U.S. pork and pork product exports to the world reached a record $7.7 billion, up 11% from the prior year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It is a part of Florida’s livestock industry and a key part of the economy. Florida’s livestock industry contributes $1.5 billion annually.

Prepared in a variety of ways – baked, broiled, grilled, smoked, sous vide – it is important to plan your meal to determine the cut you will need from your local butcher.

For a complete look at the variety of retail cuts available to consumers at local supermarket or butcher shop, faculty at University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) have published Pork Retail Identification Cuts. The infographic, which includes a complete guide of pork cuts, primals and cooking methods, is available on Ask IFAS, powered by EDIS – the UF/IFAS Electronic Data and Information.

Chad Carr, associate professor, UF/IFAS Extension meat specialist and co-author of the document has some important tips to keep top of mind when deciding whether to cook or store fresh pork.

“To ensure best quality, if using fresh pork, red meat steaks and roasts should be cooked or frozen within three to five days after purchase,” Carr said.

If worried about the frozen shelf life of pork, it depends on how it is packaged, said Carr.

“This will impact quality, not safety,” he said. “Cuts packaged in high-quality freezer paper should keep with little off-flavors for at least six months, while vacuum-sealed meat can last longer and maintain quality.”

Finally, holiday food safety is important to avoid food-borne illnesses. One common mistake is rinsing pork. “Rinsing meat will only create opportunity for cross-contamination,” said Carr.

For more safety tips on meats, poultry and other holiday favorites, check out Food Safety Tips for the Holiday Season.

Pork can be part of a healthy diet, but moderation is the key, says Brenda Marty-Jimenez, a registered dietitian with UF/IFAS Extension Broward and a family consumer sciences agent.

“Like with all foods and beverages, pork should be consumed in moderation, and as a part of an overall healthy and balanced diet over the holidays,” said Marty-Jimenez. “Low-fat cooking methods are recommended as well as selecting leaner cuts of pork.”

Today, many individuals eat too much and don’t realize it, explains Marty-Jimenez.

“This is because we have become used to seeing and eating large food portions packed with extra calories,” Marty-Jimenez said. “People who consistently overeat may become overweight or obese causing health problems.”

Marty-Jimenez recommends using MyPlate.gov to help create a healthy plate. MyPlate is based on the 2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“These two tools can help guide consumers to eat the right combination and amount of food,” said Marty-Jimenez. “Exercise, use of healthy cooking methods, eating three well-balanced meals each day, and use of basic food safety practices are some important factors when considering optimal nutrition and lifestyle choices.”

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by Lourdes Mederos, rodriguezl@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.
ifas.ufl.edu  @UF_IFAS