Pork in Kentucky
Kentucky farmers raise pigs for pork. The average American consumes 48 pounds of pork per year! While pork represents a smaller part of our farming economy, Kentucky farmers raise between 250 and 300 thousand pigs each year. A typical hog weighs between 300-700 pounds. But the largest pig ever recorded was Big Bill from Jackson, TN. He weighed 2,552 pounds - about the same weight as a Toyota Prius!
Pigs are raised on farms. Some are raised in temperature-controlled barns year-round, and others are raised outdoors. Pigs are not able to sweat to keep cool like humans. Instead, they lay in mud to cool themselves down in hot temperatures. They are omnivores, which means they like to eat both plants and animals. However, most pigs on farms eat a diet of corn and soy.
Lots of baby pigs, called piglets, are born on farms. A mother pig is called a sow, and she can have two litters of pigs per year. Each litter has 8-12 piglets. Many piglets are born in farrowing stalls. These keep the mother from accidentally crushing her babies - remember, she weighs hundreds of pounds, and the piglets weigh only a few pounds when they are born. Farrowing stalls also make it easy and safe for the farmer to feed the sow, check the mother is healthy, and give medicine when it is needed. After three weeks, the pigs are weaned and can move to a solid food diet.
Kentucky farm families work to provide the best care for their pigs and ensure we have safe food to eat. At about 270 pounds, the farmer prepares the pig for market. They will take it to one of Kentucky’s USDA inspected meat processing plants that make pork available to eat through grocery stores and restaurants.
Pork is packed with important nutrients and minerals. It is an excellent source of protein, as well as thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, phosphorus,zinc, and potassium. These nutrients are important to our health.
Many cuts of pork are considered lean, which means they are low in fat. Pork is eaten by more people than any other meat in the world! It is important to cook pork to the correct temperature. To check if your pork is done, try using a digital cooking thermometer. Most pork should be cooked to between 145 - 160 fahrenheit. Pre-cooked ham can be reheated to 140 or enjoyed cold. Many American’s favorite foods come from pork - such as ribs, bacon, chops, ham, hot dogs, and butt often used for barbeque. After taking these popular cuts from the animal, the remaining meat is used for delicious sausage. It is likely you have enjoyed pork items at a barbeque or for breakfast.
Did you know: pigs are similar enough to humans that scientists can use their tissues and organs in surgeries? Pigs are incredibly valuable for human medicine.
Kentucky farmers work hard to raise healthy lean meat for consumers in our state and beyond. Pork plays an important role in our farming state.
Glossary of Terms:
- Sow - A female pig.
- Hog - A male pig.
- Piglet - A baby pig.
- Farrow - A sow giving birth to a piglet.
- Farrowing Stall - A safe place for a sow to give birth and nurse her piglets until they are weaned.
- Wean - When an animal no longer needs its’ mothers milk and begins to eat solid food.
- Litter - A group of babies.