Pork Rivals Chicken for Leanness: Study

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The National Pork Board (NPB) here said new research shows that pork tenderloin is as lean as skinless chicken breast. An analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that trimmed, cooked pork tenderloin contains 2.98 grams of fat per three-ounce serving, compared with 3.03 grams of fat in a three-ounce serving of cooked skinless chicken breast, said the NPB.

Pork tenderloin continues to meet government guidelines for "extra-lean" status, the meat group said.

"Pork is changing to meet consumer demands," said Karen Boillot, the NPB's director of retail marketing. "America's pork producers have improved feeding and breeding practices over the years to deliver a leaner product that addresses consumers' concerns about fat content while at the same time maintaining the tasty flavor they demand. Common pork cuts consumers regularly see in the meat case are now lower in fat and saturated fat."

For retailers, the new research means a new opportunity to educate consumers about the ease, versatility, and healthfulness of pork, said Boillot. "With this new research, retailers have a great opportunity to educate consumers on health benefits of pork nutrient-wise, as well as communicate pork's versatility and ease."

To help retailers drive home these points with consumers, the Pork Board is offering retailers point of sale materials for in-store use, including 11-inch-by-seven-ince meat case cards, laminated magnetic signage, railstrips, and recipe brochures that contain pork's new nutrient profile.

The study was a collaborative effort by scientists at the USDA, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and University of Maryland, in cooperation with and funded by the National Pork Board. The objective was to compare the nutrient data for fresh pork from 1991 to 2005. The last time USDA conducted an analysis of pork was in 1991.

"Not only did we find that total fat and saturated fat decreased in six lean cuts of pork we analyzed, but some essential nutrients such as vitamin B6 and niacin actually increased," said co-author and visiting scientist Juhi Williams, with the Beltsville, Md.-based Human Nutrition Research Center at the USDA. "We also concluded that pork contains no trans fat. A small sample of pork pulled from supermarkets a few years ago led us to believe that pork was probably now leaner, which our study confirmed for the cuts analyzed. It is important that the USDA's database reflect the most up-to-date nutrient information."

The new data will replace the existing nutrient values for pork in USDA's 2007 National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, which is often used by researchers, registered dietitians, school foodservice directors, and other health professionals to plan menus and analyze an individual's nutrient intake. Government agencies and health professional organizations also rely on the database for establishing dietary guidelines and nutrition policies.
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