By Lauren Servick
Director of Communications and Marketing,
MN Pork Board
MN Pork Producers Association
October. Some would argue it is the best month of the year in southeast Minnesota. October brings the bulk of fall harvest, peak fall foliage beauty, and trips to the pumpkin patch or apple orchard. But it is also a great month to celebrate something deeply rooted in Minnesota’s DNA: Pig farming and National Pork Month.
Pig farming has long had a place in Minnesota’s countryside and remains an economic driver for rural communities. Last year, pig farmers in Minnesota raised more than 16 million market pigs, worth $2.18 billion dollars. Nearly 250,000 of those pigs were raised on family farms in Fillmore County.
Beyond the family farms, pork production also adds an estimated 44,000 jobs in Minnesota ranging from packing plants, hauling, milling, inspecting, and exporting jobs.
Just as Minnesotans enjoy an abundant, safe, and affordable pork supply, the quality of U.S. pork is sought after around the world.
So far in 2017, the United States has been exporting pork at record volumes, all while Americans are enjoying affordable prices at their local meat counter.
Currently, one out of every four pigs is being exported. That is projected to increase to one out of every three pigs in the near future. Mexico, Japan, China/Hong Kong, and Canada continue to be the largest customers for U.S. pork, respectively.
While pork production continues to grow in the U.S. and in Minnesota, pig farmers’ commitment to their animals and the environment remains their top priority.
In the last 50 years, pig farmers have reduced their carbon footprint by 35% and use 41% less water and 78% less land to produce one pound of pork. All while maintaining the highest level of animal care.
Farmers are using pig manure to fertilize fields used to grow corn and soybeans which in turn are fed back to the pigs. Using GPS technology, soil sampling, and a farm’s manure management plan, farmers are able to utilize manure to naturally fertilize their fields and protect natural resources including water.
Pig farmers only use antibiotics on an as-needed basis, for the well-being of the pigs, and under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. There’s also no need to worry about added hormones because they are not allowed to be used in pork production.
Pork pro tips
There are some easy steps to take when cooking pork at home that will make anyone a pork pro.
The most important tool in the kitchen for cooking pork is a meat thermometer. To ensure a juicy, tender eating experience, remember to cook pork until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allow for a three-minute rest.
Meat temperature is most accurately taken when the thermometer is inserted into the center of the pork without touching any bones or the cooking surface. For pork chops, insert thermometer from the side to reach the center of the chop. Pork is perfectly safe to enjoy with a little pink in the middle.
Selecting the right cut of pork for a dish is also important, but some common cuts have recently changed names.
For example, the classic bone-in pork chop is also referred to as the ribeye pork chop. The New York pork chop, or boneless loin chop, and the ribeye chop are great cuts for grilling. The porterhouse pork chop, made up of the ribeye chop and the tenderloin, is another great grilling cut.
The Boston butt (top shoulder) or the picnic shoulder are good for slow cooking or smoking and make excellent pulled pork. Fresh hams and bellies (think bacon) are good for smoking or curing at home, too.
When choosing pork, remember to look for a reddish, pink color with marbling throughout the cut. Whenever the word “loin” is included in the name, think lean. For example, the pork tenderloin is as lean as a skinless chicken breast.
It is a great time to enjoy delicious pork and recognize the hard-working families that raise healthy pigs. These friends and neighbors are providing a wholesome product grown in barns that dot Fillmore County’s landscape. October is the perfect time to celebrate what makes Minnesota great, and don’t forget the side of bacon!
Lauren Servick is the director of communications and marketing for Minnesota’s 3,200 family pig farmers at the Minnesota Pork Board and Minnesota Pork Producers Association. Servick grew up working on her family’s dairy and row crop farms in rural Fillmore County. A love for the land, animals, and the people who care for them led to a career in agriculture. If you have any questions about pig farming or agriculture in general, feel free to contact her at, email@example.com.