If I say “pork” the first foods that you probably think of are bacon, ham and sausage.

You are not alone. Most of the kindergarten through fifth grade students that I visit weekly for nutrition education classes in southern Douglas County excitedly tell me that bacon is their all-around favorite food. And what’s not to like about bacon. It’s delicious with eggs, hamburgers, pizza, maple bars, you just name it. In fact, my nephews Tyler and Ryan think everything is better with bacon! But there is so much more to pork than just bacon.

Pork costs less than most meats. When I was checking out the weekly food ads to put together my grocery list, the price for a pork shoulder roast was $1 per pound less than a 7 bone beef roast. If you’ve got a lot of hungry mouths to feed or just looking for ways to cut costs, pork is easier on the pocketbook than many other types of meat.

Pork is also an excellent source of thiamine and protein. Thiamine (vitamin B1) helps to boost energy levels, protect nerve endings and vision, improve cardio health, stimulate memory, enhance red blood cell production and aid digestion. It also has vital anti-aging properties. So, not only is pork economical and nutritious, it may help you stave off wrinkles!

The leanest cuts of pork include tenderloin and loin or rib chops and roasts. If your recipe — like Food Hero’s Pork Chili — calls for ground pork, make sure that it’s at least 85 percent lean. Canned pork is available ground or cubed and can be used in soups, sauces, or recipes using cooked pork. Simply open the can and lift off the fat. Try it when you make Food Hero’s Fried Rice with Pork.

When you are handling pork, or any meat for that matter, make sure to follow these safety guidelines:

CLEAN — Wash hands, utensils and surfaces often with hot soapy water.

SEPARATE — Keep raw meat and juices from contacting other raw or cooked foods.

COOK — Cook to at least 145 degrees F (160 for ground meats). Wait three minutes before cutting or eating.

CHILL — Refrigerate both raw and leftover cooked meats as soon as possible.

Pork is also very easy to store. Following these easy guidelines will enable you to enjoy pork the year round.

  • Refrigerate fresh pork and cook or freeze within three to five days. Keep tightly wrapped to prevent drying.
  • Freeze raw pork for longer storage. Divide into amounts for a single use. Package in freezer-quality wrap and remove as much air as possible. Label and date. For best quality, use within four to six months.
  • Refrigerate cooked pork for three to four days or freeze and use within two to three months in any recipe using cooked pork.
  • Store canned pork in a cool dry place for up to two to three years. Refrigerate after opening and use within three to four days or freeze and use within two to three months.

For more flavorful recipes using pork, visit FoodHero.org.

Kathy Bates is a Family & Community Health Education Program Assistant for Oregon State Extension Service of Douglas County. Kathy can be reached by e-mail kathy.bates@oregonstate.edu, or by phone at 541-672-4461.

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