Monday, December 22, 2008

In Praise of Pork Chops

The quality of the pork chop is an indicator of the health of the hog. Hog chow is supplemented with vitamin E to make the meat chill faster. If pigs were the same size as human beings, the dosage of vitamin E would be roughly 60,000 IU per day, or an entire bottle of 1,000 IU tablets. (An 800-pound/350 kg hog actually receives about 210,000 IU of vitamin E a day.) Vitamin E tends to accumulate in loin chops.

This has two effects for the person eating the chop. The meat is more tender and less “gamey,” and there is enough vitamin E in the meat to interfere with blood thinning medications, increasing the risk of bruising as a side effect. If you just eat one chop per meal and one meal of loin chops per week, this should not be a problem for you unless you take a blood thinner.

Pigs are sometimes fed vitamin D in enormous concentrations to produce a rosier pork chop after they are butchered. Your body absorbs the vitamin D, but it can absorb so much that you become photosensitive, subject to sunburn.

All you have to do this unfortunate effect, however, is to avoid pigging out on pork chops. Generally, you have to eat about two pounds (a kilo) of vitamin-D supplemented pork to be subject to photosensitivity reactions, but people eat this amount of pork with surprising frequency.

Hogs that are kept in especially small pins are usually given betaine to increase weight gain and to prevent “drip,” the loss of blood from the chop that makes it weigh less. Interestingly enough, the additional betaine in the pork chop helps your stomach release hydrochloric acid to digest the meat and also provides the amino acid trimethylglycine, which works with folic acid to lower levels of homocysteine, involved in coronary artery disease.

If you are concerned about the possibility of overdosing on the overdoses of vitamins used to fatten your pork, consider free-range pork. Organic, free-range pork is not given wild excesses of nutritional supplements and is a more natural, predictable food. The taste of pen-raised pork, however, is superior.

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