Clipper Staff Writer
BOUNTIFUL — Pigs are a lot less messy than they used to be.
Instead of the mud pools and troughs of slop that many of us remember from children’s storybooks, pig farmers today raise their charges is climate-controlled barns and feet them pellets made of corn and soy. As a result, the pigs produce meat that is leaner and safer to eat than before.
“Things have changed a lot in the last 50 or 60 years,” said Allison Fiscus, Director of Promotions, Communication and Education for the Utah Pork Producers Association. “Bio security is super important.”
Utah is 15th in the nation in pork production, and is a good example of the safety procedures used by farmers throughout the country. Visitors to pig barns must avoid seeing other pigs for the previous 72 hours, then shower and receive a clean change of clothes before visiting the site. Afterward, they must shower again and return the clothes.
“They don’t want you to take any germs in or bring any germs out,” said Fiscus.
Pig farmers are also battling trichinosis, an invasive worm that can infect pigs and other animals. According to Fiscus, the nutrient-enriched pellets were introduced because most pigs received the infection through spoiled proteins found in pig slop.
The change in diet has also led to leaner pork, with the backfat on fully-grown pigs averaging 1.5 inches instead of three inches. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently stated that a three-ounce portion of pork tenderloin is leaner than a three-ounce skinless chicken breast.
“We were happy to hear that,” said Fiscus with a laugh. “Pork producers are very competitive.”
People can now also cook fresh pork at a lower suggested temperature, bringing it to 142 degrees before letting it sit covered for a few minutes to finish. Sausage and ground pork should still be cooked to 160 degrees, the same temperature that was formerly recommended for pork, ham and other related meats.
In addition to being healthier, pork also costs more. Like with many foods, prices have been affected by the recent drought.
“Corn growers get more money when they put their crop towards ethanol,” said Fiscus. “Feed has gotten a lot more expensive.”
Still, there are cheaper ways to enjoy the bounty pigs can provide. Davis County residents can celebrate Bacon Fest event at the Utah State Fair, set for Sept. 10. For an additional $3, the Utah Pork Producers Association will offer six bacon-related treats, including chocolate-covered bacon, caramel-bacon cupcakes, bacon apple pie and more.