All the Questions you were afraid to ask!

Frequently asked questions by consumers, and preparers of Alberta’s Pork. Learn more about cooking temperatures, history and what makes Pork such an ideal food!



Is it dangerous for cooked pork to be a little pink? 

No. A touch of pink is both safe and desirable in pork, especially for loin cuts. Just make sure you cook pork to the recommended 160 degrees F (71°C) internal cooking temperature.

Is pork a good choice for people on a strict low fat / low cholesterol diet?

Yes. Pork, cut for cut, is just as lean as any other meat and has comparatively modest cholesterol content. The fat in pork is trans-fat free and mostly mono-and poly-unsaturated, so trimmed pork is suitable for even cholesterol-lowering or heart-healthy diets. Lean pork, when trimmed of visible fat, is nutrient-dense, satisfying and good for you.

What's the difference between 'back', 'side', 'sweet and sour' and 'spare ribs'?

Back ribs come from the back of the animal, adjacent to the loin, and have the highest proportion of meat to bone. They are usually considered tastier and more tender than side ribs and are more expensive.

Side, sweet and sour, and spare ribs are all the same thing—except that sweet and sour ribs are cut into strips about 2 – inches wide. These ribs lie against the belly (where bacon comes from) and attach to the breastbone.

Is pork genetically modified?

No. You can rest assured that there is no genetically modified pork available on the market.

Is pork stuffed full of hormones?

As far as pork is concerned, there are no hormones licensed for pork production. As a double safeguard, the meat is federally inspected on a random basis, to ensure that the meat is hormone (and antibiotic) free at the packers.

What are the nutrients in pork? 

• builds & repairs body tissues
• regulates body processes
• forms antibodies to fight off infection
• builds hemoglobin in red blood cells
• prevents nutritional anemia
• helps with energy production
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
• builds & repairs nerves & muscles
• maintains an appetite
• releases energy from carbohydrates
• releases energy from proteins
• maintains the nervous system
• builds & repairs body tissues
• maintains healthy skin & eyes
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
·       releases energy from foods
• maintains healthy skin
• maintains the digestive tract
• protects the nervous system
Vitamin B6
·       releases energy from proteins
• helps transport amino acids
• helps form niacin (Vitamin B3)
• aids functioning of nervous system
Vitamin B12
·       maintains red blood cells
• ensures healthy nerve tissue
• helps produce genetic material
• supports cell function & metabolism
• supplies energy
• protects & insulates body parts
• nourishes skin
• promotes normal growth
• transports vitamins A, D, E & K
• supplies essential fatty acids

• enhances and protects bones
• improves resistance to infection
• helps form hormones & enzymes
• develops & maintains immune system
Pantothenic Acid
• releases energy from foods
• forms cholesterol, hormones & hemoglobin
• releases energy from foods
• maintains healthy skin
• maintains the digestive tract
• protects the nervous system

• supplies energy
• protects & insulates body parts
• nourishes skin
• promotes normal growth
• transports vitamins A, D, E & K
• supplies essential fatty acids

• enhances and protects bones
• improves resistance to infection
• helps form hormones & enzymes
• develops & maintains immune system

Is ground pork hazardous if underdone?

All ground meats—including sausages and burgers—have to be cooked to well done because a bacterium in meat is found predominantly on the meat's surface. Ground meats have a huge surface area compared to solid cuts, and they have been handled more often. Play it safe, and always cook all ground meat products to well.

Is uninspected pork from a local pig farmer safe to eat?

Uninspected pork cannot be offered for resale; the butcher may legally consume it for their own use. The inspection process is designed to ensure the maximum safety of the product, and therefore uninspected meat should not be consumed.

What’s the difference between peameal bacon and Canadian bacon?

Peameal bacon is an Ontario specific speciality, and is only available sporadically elsewhere.

It’s made from the centre-cut or rib end of the loin and is cured in a brine containing salt and sugar, and then rolled in corn meal. It is an uncooked product that can be sliced and grilled or roasted whole. Canadian bacon or 'Smoked Back Bacon' is a fully cooked and smoked product from the same cuts as peameal bacon. It is usually sliced and pan-fried or grilled.

Can I re-freeze partially thawed or totally thawed pork?

If there is a significant amount of ice crystals in the meat, that is, if there is a residual hardness due to freezing, it's OK to re-freeze. This will, however, negatively affect both the taste and texture of pork (or any meat). Meat that is thawed completely cannot be re-frozen and should either be cooked right away or thrown out. The best advice in these circumstances is always "when in doubt, throw it out.” This advice holds true for all meat, fish, and poultry

What is a boneless leg roast, knuckle portion? Does it have a large amount of fat? Would it make a desirable roast? Also, would it be easy to carve?

In a supermarket, the correct nomenclature for this cut is "Pork Leg, Tip Portion". In beef, the corresponding cut is known as Sirloin Tip. It is lean (about 3.5 g fat per 100 g. It can be oven baked or pot roasted. The internal temperature should not exceed 160°F (71°C). It is very easy to carve, with no bones and virtually no internal fat.

Is pork a red or white meat?

There is some confusion on this point, prompted by the U.S. National Pork Producer's tag line "Pork, The Other White Meat."  But pork is, strictly speaking, a red meat (because meat from all cloven-hooved animals is classified as "red.")

How should I cook a whole smoked pork shoulder?

To cook a smoked pork shoulder: Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add aromatics (carrots, onions, celery, peppercorns, bay leaves, etc.) if desired. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and then allow to simmer for about 2 1/2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C). Remove and allow to cool enough to enable you to remove skin. Glaze if you wish with any glaze suitable for ham. Serve hot or cold.

What is "seasoned" pork?

Pork labelled "seasoned" has been processed using a brine (salt, water, sodium phosphate) solution, in order to create a product that retains moisture even when overcooked. Other meats and poultry, such as beef and chicken, can also be "seasoned.”

Since many pork cuts are very low in fat, they can tend to become dry and perceived as tough after cooking. Seasoned pork allows for a more tender and juicy product even if overcooked or held warm for a period of time.

Adding salt, water and sodium phosphate to solid meat or poultry allows the product to retain moisture throughout cooking: the sodium phosphate binds the water molecules to the protein in the meat, and the salt acts as an enabler in the process.

Seasoned meats and poultry are not flavoured or spiced, so do not have a taste noticeably different than unseasoned products.

Not all pork sold at retail is seasoned, however pork that is seasoned must be labeled as such. Seasoned pork must also be labeled with a list of ingredients as well as a declaration of per cent meat protein. Pork that has not been seasoned (that is a single ingredient meat product) usually does not have an ingredient list or a Nutrition Facts table.

A Nutrition Facts table is required on meat and poultry with added phosphates and/or water whether packaged at retail or packaged at the manufacturer. The amount of sodium for a seasoned product will be higher than for an unseasoned product. For example, an average (100 g/3 oz) seasoned centre-cut pork loin chop has about 300 mg of sodium (this figure varies according to cut and manufacturer). To put this in perspective, the recommended upper tolerable limit for healthy adults is 2300 mg of sodium per day (approximately 1 tsp of salt)*. The amount of sodium recommended for healthy Canadians aged 9 – 50 is 1500 mg per day, and 1300 mg per day for Canadians age 51-70. People on sodium-restricted diets should follow their doctor's advice and carefully read labels in all cases.

*Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes: The essential guide to nutrient requirements. The National Academies Press, Washington DC, 2006

Why is beef aged and not pork?

Beef has a stronger connective tissue, making it less tender. Aging the beef causes the enzymes in the meat to break the connective tissue down, thereby tenderizing it.

But pork doesn’t have the strong connective tissue—it’s not as tough to begin with. Sometimes consumers do confuse dry, over-cooked pork as being tough. This means that there is no advantage to aging pork; in fact it causes the shelf life to decrease, creating a food safety issue.

Why are some pork cuts pale and some quite dark?

Pork can come from many different breeds of animals, as well as different feed programs, although over the years these factors are becoming more uniform. This being said, if the meat is too pale or dark, it can be an indication that the animal will not be of top quality. Pale pork can be an indication that the meat has a low Ph level making it dry and stringy. Dark pork is also an indication of poorer quality. A nice pink color is best.

What is freezer burn and is it harmful?

Freezer burn is caused when the meat in your freezer is exposed to the air. The moisture slowly evaporates from the surface of the meat, leaving a dry discolored surface. It can be trimmed off without affecting the rest of the meat. Proper wrapping to seal the meat from the outside air is the best protection and make sure not to bump the product and tear open the seal.
It is not harmful to eat, but it won’t be as delicious as the freezer burn affects the flavour and texture.

What is the best way to store pork?

If the product is frozen, it is best to ensure that the meat is sealed from the outside air. Even though the meat is frozen, moisture will still evaporate from the product if it is exposed. Vacuum packed bags are the best form of packaging.

For fresh meats, always check the "best before", or "packaged on" date. A good rule of thumb is if you are not cooking it within two days of purchase, wrap it in an air tight seal and pop it in the freezer.

And remember, don’t ever leave pork or other groceries in the back of your vehicle for any length of time. 


How do I tell if the pork is ready on the BBQ?

Wherever possible, use a meat thermometer, but if you don’t have one handy while cooking steaks or chops on the BBQ, then apply slight pressure to the meat with a fork after you’ve flipped it over. This will squeeze some of the juices to the surface of the cut. If the juices are clear the meat is cooked. There may still be some pink to the meat, but that is fine as long as  the juices are clear.

What are the leanest cuts of pork?

All trimmed pork cuts, with the exception of ribs, qualify as 'lean' or 'extra-lean.

*Thank you to “Put Pork on Your Fork” for all the great questions and the even better answers.