Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: December 8, 2022

I’ve been on a carnivore diet for over a decade, and pork is a regular part of my diet.

I make a dish with pork at least twice a week, and at this point, there’s no part of the pig that I haven’t tried, so I wanted to learn how to classify pork.

I know about the phrase “the other white meat,” but what does it mean, and do I classify pork as red or white meat? I checked what the USDA says and talked with a nutritionist to find the answer.

Here’s where pork belongs.

Quick Summary

  • Pork is considered white meat because it has white color before and after cooking.
  • According to the scientific classification and the USDA, pork belongs to red meats.
  • Pork is rich in several vitamins and minerals.

Is Pork Red Meat?

Three slices of pork meat on a white background

Yes, pork is red meat.

In fact, before the 80s, pork was thought of as red meat. Then the pork industry started a campaign in the 80s that got people to think of pork as white meat.

In 1987 the National Pork Board invested $7 million into a campaign that advertised pork as lean meat and called it “the other white meat,” which is where the confusion started.

1. USDA Classification

USDA classified pork as red meat for two reasons:

  • Pork has more myoglobin than poultry and fish.
  • Pork is classified as livestock because it comes from farm animals, such as beef, lamb, and veal [1].

Because USDA classifies pork as red meat, scientific and nutritional institutions do as well.

2. Culinary Classification

According to culinary tradition and classification, pork doesn’t belong to red but white meat. White meat is meat that’s a pale color before and after cooking, similar to pork.

“Pork is classified as "red" meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. When fresh pork is cooked, it becomes lighter in color, but it is still a red meat. Pork is classed as "livestock" along with veal, lamb, and beef. All livestock are considered "red meat."
- The United States Department of Agriculture

Red vs. White Meat

An image of pork chops on top of a wooden board

Meats are divided into red and white meat based on their color, i.e., the amount of myoglobin found in an animal's muscles. A protein called myoglobin is a high-quality protein that makes the meat red when exposed to oxygen [2].

For example, fish and poultry are considered white meat, and they have less myoglobin than red meats, so their color isn’t as red.

Other factors that influence the division into white and red meat are the animal’s sex, age, diet, and activity. Muscles that are exercised have more myoglobin because they need more oxygen to work properly, so this meat is darker.

Packaged and processed meats also have color variations. Beef, lamb, pork, and veal should be cherry red, dark cherry red, or pale pink, while poultry should be white to yellow.

USDA classifies any meat that comes from a mammal as red meat because mammals have a high amount of myoglobin, which is another reason pork is red meat.

Even though pork can become lighter in color when you cook it, it’s still classified as red meat.

Scientific studies link red meat with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and higher mortality, and pork can lead to these, so it’s thought of as red meat [3].

Also Read: Dark Meat vs White Meat

Pork Nutrition

A top view image of pork red meat slices

Pork has a reputation for being unhealthy. However, pork is a good source of nutrients and proteins.

Here’s the nutrition information for 100g of pork loin:

  • Calories: 192
  • Protein: 26g
  • Fat: 8.8 (saturated fat content 2.8g)
  • Fiber: 0
  • Sugar: 0

Moreover, pork is a great source of selenium, thiamine, vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, and iron [4]. We need thiamine for normal body functions, and pork products have more thiamine than beef and lamb.

Vitamins B6 and B12 provide blood cell formation and aid brain function, and selenium is good for thyroid function [5] [6].

Several studies found that pork’s unhealthy reputation is unjustified, and there’s no evidence that links red meat to heart disease or cancer [7] [8]. Even saturated fats found in pork aren't bad.

You don’t have to stress over these health concerns as long as you eat unprocessed instead of processed meat.

Tip: Ask for lean cuts when buying pork for the most health benefits, especially if you want to consume fewer saturated fats.

Related Articles:

FAQs

Is Pork Healthier Than Red Meat?

Yes, pork is healthier than red meat. It’s lower in saturated fat and calories. This goes for raw pork and pork that’s not processed into bacon or ham.

What Meat Is Not Red Meat?

Chicken, turkey, and meat from fowl aren’t red meat. All of these are white when cooked.

Why is Pork Considered White Meat?

Pork is considered white meat because it has a pale color before and after cooking.

What Can I Eat Instead of Red Meat?

You can eat fish, poultry, nuts, beans, and low-fat dairy instead of red meat.

Should You Eat Pork?

Pork is delicious, and you can cook pork in countless ways. It has complete amino acids and more vitamins than other red meats.

Pork started getting lumped with white meats in the 80s, but according to the scientific classification, and the USDA, it belongs to red meat.

You need a reliable pork supplier to get the biggest benefits of eating pork. For the past two years, I’ve been ordering cuts from ButcherBox, a meat delivery company that sells the highest-quality pork from sustainably raised animals without additives or hormones.

The animals are from heritage-breed lines, such as Berkshire and Duroc, which means you’ll get melt-in-the-mouth cuts of pork. Check them out, and take advantage of the free delivery.


References:

  1. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/meat/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23190143/
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1134845
  4. https://www.nutritionix.com/food/pork-loin/100-g
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772032/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307254/#:~:text
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26068959/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4532752/
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