Pork: white or red meat?

Pork is the second most-consumed type of meat in the world. And while it is such a popular type of meat, many people are confused about its classification as red or white meat. In this article, we examine whether pork should be considered white or red meat.

Differences between red and white meat

Meats are classified as white or red depending on the amount of myoglobin present in the animal’s muscles.
Myoglobin is a protein in muscle tissue that binds oxygen so that it can be used for energy. When myoglobin comes in contact with oxygen it produces a bright red color tone. It is this pigment that gives the meat its red color.
Red meat has a higher concentration of myoglobin than, for example, chicken or fish, which are considered white meats.
However, other factors, such as the age of the animal, sex, diet, activity levels, breed, etc., can also affect the color of the meat. For example, exercised muscles have a higher concentration of myoglobin, as they need more oxygen to work. This means that meat coming from animals with high physical activity will be darker than meat coming from animals that do not move or move little.

Scientific classification of pork

Pork is classified as red meat by the scientific community and Food Safety and Classification Authorities – such as the US Department of Agriculture. The reason is the amount of myoglobin that we find in pork, which is significantly higher than that found in chicken and fish.
An additional reason is the fact that pigs are considered farm animals, of the same category as cattle and lambs.

Culinary classification of pork

According to the gastronomic/culinary tradition, the term “white meat” is used to describe the meat that is of white color when raw, and keeps this colour tone even after it has been cooked. Therefore, from a culinary point of view, pork is classified as white meat.

Conclusion: white or red?

According to the above-mentioned information, pork is considered red meat for the scientific community and white meat for the culinary community. So, which of the two communities is in the right place?
Nowadays it is common in the culinary world to consider pork as white meat, but this was the result of a marketing campaign launched in the 1980s, by the US National Pork Board which promoted pork consumption as an alternative to lean meat. The slogan of the campaign was “Pork – the other white meat”, and it seems to have been quite successful, as it did indeed achieve its goal of making pork… an alternative to chicken, fish and turkey.

Therefore, scientifically speaking, pork should be considered red meat.