Fat levels in pork reducing, new research shows

Fat levels in UK pork have dropped, new research based on the first official testing for nearly 30 years shows.

The work, co-funded by AHDB and Public Health England (PHE), was carried out by the Quadram Institute’s Food Databanks team in the first half of 2019.

The survey analysed the nutrient content of commonly consumed pork cuts and leaner cuts of pork that are becoming more popular. Pork fillet medallions, loin medallions, loin steaks and leg joints, purchased from a cross-section of retail and wholesale outlets, were all analysed as part of the research.

Samples were analysed for a range of nutrients, including fat, fatty acids, protein, cholesterol and a full range of vitamins and minerals

The analysis found lower fat levels in the lean-only portion, compared to previous analysis carried out in 1992.

Other changes noted were lower and higher levels of some nutrients (iodine and vitamin B12; and vitamin E and niacin respectively).

Taking into account these changes, 100g cooked pork still provides a good proportion of an adult’s daily thiamin, niacin, selenium and vitamin B12 requirements.

Some cuts of pork now contain less than 3g of fat per 100g. A claim that a food is low in fat may be made where it contains no more than 3g of fat per 100g.

AHDB said the results of the analytical survey, last carried out in 1992, reflect key changes in pig production in recent years, including new breeds, changes in diet and supplementation, as well as giving insight into newer cuts like pork medallions, not previously tested.

Maureen Strong, Head of Nutrition of AHDB, said: “This is a significant step forward for the pork industry and further bolsters the nutrition credentials of lean pork cuts and their contribution to a healthy, balanced diet.

“The research confirmed that fat levels in the cuts of pork tested had gone down since the last work was done in 1992. It also showed that these cuts remain a source of a wide range of nutrients like vitamins E and B12, as well as niacin, selenium and thiamin.

“The results reflect the positive changes in pig production made in the last 28 years and reinforce the importance of regularly updating testing on the nutritional content of meat.”

The results will be included in the next update of the UK Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset (CoFID).

PHE will use the results to update McCance and Widdowson’s The Composition of Foods Integrated Dataset, which is the ‘go to’ reference for food composition information in the UK. The Quadram Institute Food Databanks National Capability havs been producing and managing this dataset for many years, supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

“This is an important study showing some key changes to pork composition for some cuts. It is important to extend the study to a wider nutritional review of all red meats in the future,” said Paul Finglas, from the Quadram Institute.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.