Why is pork tastier than other meat?

Meat as a staple food?

Meat has been a staple food in this country for centuries. All you need to do is take a look at the typical German dishes: Meat plays an important role in many of our recipes in our traditional home-style cooking. From meatballs, roulades or fricassee to the popular currywurst and other sausage specialties to the hearty Sunday roast.

What counts as a staple food is what is found on the menu in large quantities, especially in terms of quantity. How well it supplies us with nutrients is less important.

In the past few years, more and more different forms of nutrition with different focuses have spread. Vegetarians or vegans completely avoid meat or sausage products and other animal products. The number of those who no longer count meat as part of their staple food has increased recently.

Development of meat consumption in Germany

For those who grew up on a farm in the country, meat was a natural part of their daily diet for a long time. In the cities, on the other hand, food was correspondingly more expensive and the poorer population could often only afford a piece of meat every now and then. The term Sunday roast also originates from this time.

After the hard years of war, meat consumption initially increased. Modern animal husbandry and efficient processing techniques have finally made meat affordable for everyone. It has become part of the daily menu for many.

While wages have risen steadily over the past few decades, food prices have risen only slightly by comparison. The share of spending on food in total consumer spending has become ever smaller. At the beginning of the 20th century, around half of monthly income was still spent on food. Today it is less than 14 percent.

Meanwhile, meat consumption in Germany is declining. Since 2011, significantly less pork has been consumed. One cause is the changed eating habits in part of the population. Last but not least, the consumption of meat has come under fire due to the controversial factory farming. For some, this is the reason and motivation to eat less of it or even to do without it.

What nutrients can meat provide?

However, many wonder whether the body could be lacking important nutrients if they were to do without them completely. Basically, meat is a good source of protein (Proteins). In addition, the human body can metabolize these proteins very well and use them as a source of energy. In addition, there are various Minerals and Vitamins contain in significant quantities:

  • iron
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • manganese
  • Vitamins B.1, B2, B6, B12, D and E

In fact, the individual nutrients differ greatly depending on the type of meat. Also at Fat content There are also significant differences, depending on which part of the animal the piece of meat is:

  • The protein content is between a fifth and a third of the total weight.
  • Chicken breasts are the leanest with less than one percent fat. Chicken leg already reaches over ten percent here.
  • Veal, horse and deer meat as well as beef fillet or pork ham with less than five percent fat are just as lean.
  • Duck, goose and lamb have the highest fat content with up to 20 percent. Pork belly bacon even makes up almost 30 percent.

It is also worth mentioning that contained in the meat cholesterol. The amount is between 50 and 90 milligrams per 100 grams of total weight, depending on the type. In the case of offal, the proportion is even higher at up to 250 milligrams.

Differences between different types of posture

In addition to the type of animal and the respective cut, a completely different factor has a decisive effect on the composition and the nutrients contained in meat: The way the animals are kept during their lifetime.

Age, type and amount of feed and other criteria play a role here. Overall, this makes it very difficult to assess the benefits of meat from a nutritional point of view. Because basically no clear statistics can be drawn up about the ingredients.

The specific differences that result from the various types of posture can be seen if you take a closer look at them. Different names already exist. For example, a distinction is made between extensive and intensive animal husbandry:

  • At extensive husbandry comparatively few animals live in a large area. The rearing uses the natural resources without stressing them too much or using them up.
  • In the intense posture - also known as factory farming - the focus is on the most efficient use of all resources possible: low land consumption or highly nutrient-rich feed for rapid growth.

Two other important distinctions are also used for the designation of origin of meat and are more meaningful for the consumer. The terms have their origin in conventional and organic agriculture:

  1. Conventional animal husbandry

This type of husbandry is based on the intensive way in which the animals are reared. Here, too, it is characteristic to achieve the highest possible yield (of meat) while at the same time using resources efficiently. A higher yield is possible by influencing various factors.

For example, farmers rely on fast-growing breeds with a high proportion of meat. At the same time, more animals are housed in a smaller space. In order to speed up the rearing, special feed is often used for the fattening.

  1. Organic animal husbandry

With ecological husbandry, more attention is paid to the welfare of the animals. The conditions under which the animals grow up are more based on the natural conditions they would find in the wild. In addition to a stable as a shelter, they also have the opportunity to move around in an outdoor enclosure in the fresh air and in natural light.

Basically, there are clear legal regulations that specify the keeping conditions in detail.

In addition, there are very different standards, each with different criteria for posture that must be adhered to. The meat can then be labeled accordingly.

How healthy is our meat?

The large differences in keeping show that this inevitably results in deviations in the quality of the meat. If the animals grow up in a shorter period of time, the weight gain is often due to the storage of a higher proportion of water in the tissue. This will be noticeable later during preparation in the kitchen. Meat with a high water content loses size when roasted and can purr to a fraction of its original size.

Meat: the pros and cons of eating

Because there are these big differences in meat, it is very difficult to make any predictions about the health effects of its consumption. When consumed in moderation, it is a good source of protein and iron. In the case of plant-based alternatives such as various legumes or cereals, the proportion of these nutrients is usually lower. In order to take in about the same amount of protein, more of it has to be consumed.

However, experts warn against eating too much meat. The reasons for this are very different:

  • The high proportion of table salt in processed meat and sausage products is problematic. Too much salt damages our organism and can lead to serious illnesses.
  • Depending on the type of meat and preparation, the fat content is comparatively high. If the protein requirement is met through plant-based foods, the risk of obesity is lower.
  • The body is troubled by the high cholesterol level. Since our organism largely produces this substance itself, the cholesterol balance is imbalanced by the high intake from outside. A distinction is also made between “good” and “bad” cholesterol. We eat the latter mainly through animal foods. A high level of cholesterol in the blood can lead to various diseases.

Many negative consequences of consuming too much meat only become apparent over the years. In addition to obesity, gout, osteoporosis and various cardiovascular diseases, a connection with an increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's is suspected.

The different types of meat at a glance

pork meat

Pork is the most popular in Germany. In addition, a large amount of sausage products are mainly made from pork. Due to the relatively high proportion of fat, it is particularly tasty.

However, this makes it less healthy if we consume too large amounts of it on a regular basis compared to other types of meat. It also spoils faster than other varieties. Another reason why it is often made durable through various processes (curing, smoking, processing into sausage). This in turn means that foods made from pork often have a high salt content.

It is therefore healthier to use fresh and unprocessed cuts. The fillet, chops or schnitzel are particularly lean.

beef

The so-called “red” meat - especially beef - is particularly criticized for causing various health problems. In order to examine the background in more detail, a wide variety of studies have been carried out so far, but without clear results.

Here, too, it is clear that lean cuts are healthier than fatty ones and that organic meat is less exposed to drugs or nitrates. Studies have also shown that feeding the animals with grass instead of special fattening feed leads to a lower fat content in the meat.

Beef also appears again and again in connection with the so-called paleo diet. The “Stone Age Diet” relies on foods that were available to people in prehistoric times. The idea behind it: Our organism has adapted to the composition of these foods over the millennia and can best utilize them. It is clear, however, that the meat today cannot be compared with that from "primeval times" due to the differences in rearing and processing.

"Red meat" is sometimes said to have a cancer-promoting effect. The background to this is that certain types of preparation - especially roasting or grilling - can produce carcinogenic substances. However, this also seems to depend on the breed of animal. It is always safer to cook the meat at lower temperatures.

poultry

Chicken or turkey is the most popular poultry in this country and regularly ends up in the cooking pots. Many prefer this meat because certain parts are a lot lower in fat than beef or pork. Chemical compounds that form carcinogenic substances when cooking red meat at high temperatures are not found in poultry.

However, special care should be taken during preparation: poultry meat is more susceptible to contamination with salmonella. These bacteria occur naturally in our environment and can transmit and trigger various diseases. To be on the safe side, poultry should always be cooked through. Further measures and careful hygiene in the kitchen help to avoid health risks from salmonella.

The healthiest way to use poultry is to use chunks that are as fresh as possible. A wide variety of ready-made products are available in stores, from breaded nuggets to portioned and marinated meatballs. Often, instead of pure breast or leg meat, other meat components are also processed, which affects the quality.

If the meat comes from animals from mass farming, poultry meat in particular is often very heavily contaminated with antibiotics. If you want to avoid this, you should use organic products.

Lamb

Lamb is also one of the “red” types of meat, but it is comparatively seldom on the plate in Germany. Not least because of its usually higher price, it is more of a delicacy and is more likely to be prepared for festive occasions.

Lamb comes from animals that are younger than one year. Sheep meat from adult animals is also available, but with increasing age the meat becomes more and more aromatic and acquires the typical mutton taste, which we Europeans often find too intense.

The color of the fat on the meat can also give an indication of the age of the animal. In younger specimens, the fat is completely white. As the animals get older, it becomes increasingly yellowish. Basically, a distinction can be made between two types when shopping:

  • Slaughter lamb: slaughter between the 3rd and 4th month
  • Fattening lamb: slaughtered between the 4th and 12th month

Even with lamb, the lean pieces are not only considered to be the healthiest, but also the most tender.

Wild

Game includes meat from roe deer, stag, wild boar or even hare. In Germany, the proportion of game in total meat consumption is relatively low. The meat that we can buy here comes partly from local forests, from local breeding but also from abroad. The frozen goods from the supermarket often come from far away, such as Australia, New Zealand or the USA.

If the animals grow up in the wild, the meat is considered very healthy. It is not burdened by medication. However, there are studies that show that game from some regions can be contaminated with radioactive radiation. Especially southern parts of Bavaria and the Bavarian Forest have been more severely affected by the consequences of the Chernobyl reactor accident to this day. If you want to be sure that no contaminated meat is put on your plate, you should find out more.

Meat: do without it?

Despite the great differences, as for almost every food, there are recommendations from nutritionists as to how much of it we should consume on a regular basis. Basically, it can be said that you can do without meat without suffering a long-term deficiency in certain nutrients. There is basically no component that cannot be covered by another food.

However, it is then important to adjust your diet accordingly. Above all, those components that meat can provide in larger quantities must then be replaced by suitable alternatives.

It's all a question of quantity

It has also certainly become clear that the consumption of meat does not generally have a bad effect on health. The decisive factor for this is clearly the amount and type of product.

It is fairly clear that processed meat and sausage products in particular can damage our organism due to the composition and additives. Here, too, the amount is decisive. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends, based on study results published by the World Health Organization (WHO), an amount of around 300 to 600 grams of meat per week. The studies were only able to determine health-endangering effects at higher consumption.

Tips for buying meat

If you also observe a few rules when buying, you can also reduce or avoid the possible negative consequences of meat consumption. Basically, freshness and good quality should be emphasized:

  • Pay attention to the organic seal: Meat from organic farming is not only less contaminated with drugs or other critical residues from the feed, the animals also grow up closer to nature and usually have a little more time to develop healthily. In the end, you can taste that on the meat.
  • Class instead of mass: High quality meat often costs more. In return, more attention is paid to the environment when it comes to ecological animal husbandry. This is another reason why it makes sense to invest a little more in a good product and to consume less meat overall.
  • Prefer regional products: Local meat also has a big advantage. Long transport routes are not necessary here - neither with the living animals nor with the finished end product. On the other hand, everyone can make a contribution to strengthening regional agriculture.

It should not be a secret that the cheap products from the discounter - whether meat or sausage - mostly come from factory farming. Consumers should pay close attention to the respective labeling here. Because many manufacturers advertise with their own organic seals, but these have nothing to do with the legal organic standards. If you want to be sure that the product actually comes from organic farming, you should look for the state organic seal. There are also other eco-labels from the individual cultivation associations, some of which adhere to even stricter rules.