Red or White: What Kind of Meat Is Pork?

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Pork is the most consumed meat in the world (1).

However, despite its worldwide popularity, many people are unsure about its correct classification.

That’s because some classify it as red meat, while others consider it to be white meat.

This article examines whether pork is white or red meat.

Differences between red and white meat

The main difference between red and white meat’s color is the amount of myoglobin found in the animal’s muscle.

Myoglobin is a protein in muscle tissue that binds to oxygen so that it can be used for energy.

In meat, myoglobin becomes the main pigment responsible for its color, as it produces a bright red tone when it comes into contact with oxygen (2Trusted Source3).

Red or White: What Kind of Meat Is Pork?
Red or White: What Kind of Meat Is Pork?

Red meat has a higher myoglobin content than white meat, which is what sets their colors apart.

However, different factors may influence a meat’s color, such as the animal’s age, species, sex, diet, and activity level (3).

For example, exercised muscles have a higher myoglobin concentration because they need more oxygen to work. This means that the meat that comes from them will be darker.

Furthermore, packaging and processing methods may lead to variations in meat color (2Trusted Source3).

The optimum surface color of raw meat from beef, lamb, pork, and veal should be cherry red, dark cherry red, grayish-pink, and pale pink, respectively. As for raw poultry, it may vary from bluish-white to yellow (3).

SUMMARYMyoglobin is a protein responsible for meat’s red color, and it’s the main factor when classifying red and white meat. Red meat has more myoglobin than white meat.

Scientific classification of pork

According to the scientific community and food authorities, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), pork is classified as red meat (1).

There are two main reasons for this classification.

First, pork has more myoglobin than poultry and fish. As such, it’s classified as red meat despite not having a bright red color — and even if it becomes lighter when cooked.

Second, given that pigs are farm animals, pork is classified as livestock along with beef, lamb, and veal, and all livestock are considered red meat.

SUMMARYPork has more myoglobin than poultry and fish. Thus, the scientific community and food authorities like the USDA classify it as red meat. Also, given pigs’ classification as livestock along with other farm animals, pork is considered red meat.

Culinary classification of pork

According to culinary tradition, the term white meat refers to meat with a pale color both before and after cooking.

Thus, culinarily speaking, pork is classified as white meat.

What’s more, a campaign launched by the National Pork Board — a program sponsored by the USDA’s agricultural marketing service — may have reinforced this position (4).

The campaign started in the late 1980s as an effort to promote pork as a lean meat alternative, and it became very popular with the slogan, “Pork. The other white meat.”

However, keep in mind that the campaign’s goal was to increase consumer demand for lower fat cuts of pork.

SUMMARYCulinary tradition classifies pork as white meat due to its pale color, both before and after cooking.

The bottom line

White and red meat differ in their amount of myoglobin, the protein responsible for a meat’s color.

Red meat has more myoglobin than white meat, and a higher myoglobin content generates a darker meat color.

Though culinary tradition treats pork as white meat, it’s scientifically red meat, as it has more myoglobin than poultry and fish.

Additionally, as a farm animal, pork is classified as livestock, which is also considered red meat.

Some lean cuts of pork are nutritionally similar to chicken, leading to the slogan, “Pork. The other white meat.”

 


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