Is Pork Really A Dirty Meat? – A Reader Asks: “Is it true what they say that pork is bad for you because pigs don’t sweat?”
No, it’s not true. It’s a blatant lie spread by anti-pork and anti-meat fanatics who don’t trust you to make up your own mind about a food source that nutritionists say can be perfectly healthy in reasonable portions.
There are basically 2 big myths about pork. One says that pork is somehow “dirty” because pigs don’t perspire. The second says that pork is unsafe because of parasites. Let’s look at each of these and see if we can’t bring a little truth to the table.
Parasites In Pork
When people talk about parasites in pork, they’re usually referring to either tapeworms or trichinosis. Both of these parasites can infect pork and can cause serious health problems in humans.
The so-called “pork tapeworm” is known scientifically as Taenia solium, and is spread mainly through ingestion of the tapeworm’s eggs, usually in feces. However, the condition is actually pretty rare these days, thanks to better sanitation and more awareness of the danger of tapeworm infection. And, it’s entirely preventable through proper cooking of meat.
Tapeworm scares a lot of people but it’s been almost eliminated in industrialized nations like ours. 80 million pigs are slaughtered in the U.S. every year but fewer than a dozen show any evidence of tapeworm infection. By far, most of the cases of pork tapeworm in the U.S. come from people bringing the infection with them from other countries.
So that leaves us with the other parasite most commonly associated with pork—trichinosis. This infection is caused by a type of roundworm from the Trichinella genus. However, even this infection is very rare. In 1986, for example, the Centers for Disease Control logged only 51 cases of trichinosis. Of those, 3 of those were linked to commercial pork. The rest were linked to game meat (mostly bear) slaughtered by hunters or pigs raised on small farms where the farmers slaughtered their own animals and processed meat themselves.
“Pigs Are ‘Dirty’ Because They Don’t Have Sweat Glands”
The other big myth about pigs is that they’re somehow “dirty” because they don’t perspire. However, other “healthy” meat sources don’t have sweat glands, either. Chickens, for example don’t perspire. Neither do fish.
Besides, sweat is actually a pretty poor way to “detox” anyway. The body has a very sophisticated system to remove waste and that system isn’t connected to sweat glands in pork, fish, chickens or humans. The myth that you “detox” through perspiration is spread only by people who don’t understand how the body actually removes wastes and toxins–or charlatans trying to sell you something.
Does This Mean You Should Eat More Pork?
So does this mean that we should all run out and eat more pork? That’s for you to decide. If you’re avoiding pork for religious or health reasons, I’m certainly not going to try to talk you into eating it.
“There’s a big difference between a piece of pork tenderloin—which is actually leaner than the same-sized portion of chicken–and a hot dog.”
And remember, there’s a big difference between a piece of pork tenderloin—which is actually leaner than the same-sized portion of chicken—and a hot dog. But if you’ve been avoiding pork because someone told you it’s “dirty” . . . well, now you have the information to make up your own mind.
DeGiorgio, G., et al. (2005). Sero-prevalence of Taenia solium cysticercosis and Taenia solium taeniasis in California, USA. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica.
Singh, G., et al. (2002). Taenia Solium Cysticercosis. CABI Publishing. Bailey, T., et al. (1988). Trichinosis Surveillance, United States, 1986. Accessed from Centers for Disease Control web site on August 11, 2009.