By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: With a growth rate outpacing all other proteins in the foodservice industry, pork is hot. A new assessment, released by Technomic, Inc., focuses on 2013 foodservice sales. The report indicates that pork’s popularity continues. According to Stephen Gerike, who serves as director of foodservice marketing for the Pork Checkoff, the versatility of the pork shoulder and pulled pork is one reason for that success. 

But Arizona agriculture’s pork-industry people are not surprised by the results of this study. “In addition to being affordable, pork is a very diverse ingredient,” says Marguerite A. Tan, Environmental Manager for PFFJ, LLC, Farm Operations based in Taylor, Arizona. “There are hundreds of ways in which pork can be prepared to entice every taste bud and suit every occasion.  Pork products are also very consistent: identical cuts of pork which are cooked and seasoned the same way will have matching flavor and texture.  This consistency makes pork a very user-friendly ingredient in both homes and the food service industry.”

The Technomic study also shows sales of fresh and processed pork products grew most aggressively in the areas of breakfast protein and snacks. However, gains were seen throughout all daily meals. The Technomic, Inc. study showed that of the 24 pork product categories reviewed, 22 demonstrated a positive sales growth.

What’s the pork industry doing to ensure the momentum in popularity is maintained? “The pork industry has been helping consumers reconnect with their food in their own kitchens through recipes, meal shopping lists, cooking tips, and pork dish ideas for every occasion and time constraint,” says Tan.

Tan suggests that the best way for a family to discover their favorite pork cuts is to try a variety and determine what the family likes best.  The pork industry’s provides lots of information including easy recipes featuring some of the various pork cuts.

Says one of our Arizona farmers, “I love pork because of the flavor and how easy it is to cook. If you love barbecuing, you’ve also got lots of exciting options.”

The Basics of Barbecuing

Pork brings out the cook in all of us. “I absolutely love the way that pork accepts seasoning,” says Bruce Cain, Business Center Director for Farm Bureau Financial Services in Gilbert, Arizona. “Pork is easier to cook; it’s more forgiving when overcooked."

Cain, who considers barbecuing one of his hobbies, has been cooking pork and other meat cuts for 24 years.

If barbecuing pork becomes a hobby of yours, Cain and others suggest starting out simple. Since barbecuing is simply a method of slowly cooking meat in an open pit or on a spit using coals, hardwoods, gas or electricity as a heat source, you might want to determine what method suits you and begin there.

For initial cooking tips remember to prevent the meat from sticking by using clean racks and coat them with vegetable oil or a nonstick vegetable oil spray. Plus, when turning the meat, avoid sharp utensils that may pierce the meat when trying to turn it because piercing allows valuable juices to escape. 

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