Pork is the culinary name for the meat of a domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus). It is the most commonly consumed meat worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC.
Pork is eaten both freshly cooked and preserved. Curing extends the shelf life of the pork products. Ham, smoked pork, gammon, bacon and sausage are examples of preserved pork. Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, many from pork.
Pork is not only the most popular meat in the Western world and in Central Europe, it is also very popular in the Eastern and non-Muslim parts of India, Southeastern Asia (Indochina, Philippines, Singapore, East Timor) and in Malaysia. It is highly prized in Asian cuisines for its fat content and pleasant texture.
Some religions and cultures, notably Judaism and Islam, prohibit pork consumption.
Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés and confit, primarily from pig. Originally intended as a way to preserve meats before the advent of refrigeration, these preparations are prepared today for the flavors that are derived from the preservation processes. In 15th-century France, local guilds regulated tradesmen in the food production industry in each city. The guilds that produced charcuterie were those of the charcutiers. The members of this guild produced a traditional range of cooked or salted and dried meats, which varied, sometimes distinctively, from region to region. The only “raw” meat the charcutiers were allowed to sell was unrendered lard. The charcutier prepared numerous items, including pâtés, rillettes, sausages, bacon, trotters, and head cheese.
Before the mass production and re-engineering of pigs in the 20th century, pork in Europe and North America was traditionally an autumn dish—pigs and other livestock coming to the slaughter in the autumn after growing in the spring and fattening during the summer. Due to the seasonal nature of the meat in Western culinary history, apples (harvested in late summer and autumn) have been a staple pairing to fresh pork. The year-round availability of meat and fruits has not diminished the popularity of this combination on Western plates.
Pigs are the most widely eaten animal in the world, accounting for about 36% of meat production worldwide. As a result, large numbers of pork recipes are developed throughout the world. Jamón is the most famous Spanish inlay, which is made with the back legs of a pig. Feijoada, the national dish of Brazil (also served in Portugal), is traditionally prepared with pork trimmings: ears, tail and feet.
According to the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, nearly 100 million metric tons of pork were consumed worldwide in 2006 (preliminary data). Increasing urbanization and disposable income has led to a rapid rise in pork consumption in China, where 2006 consumption was 20% higher than in 2002, and a further 5% increase projected in 2007. In 2015 recorded total 109.905 million metric tons of pork were consumed worldwide.:18 By 2017, half the world’s pork was consumed in China.Pork is popular throughout eastern Asia and the Pacific, where whole roast pig is a popular item in Pacific Island cuisine. It is consumed in a great many ways and highly esteemed in Chinese cuisine. Currently China is the world’s largest pork consumer, with pork consumption expected to total 53 million tons in 2012, which accounts for more than half of global pork consumption. In China, pork is preferred over beef for economic and aesthetic reasons; the pig is easy to feed and is not used for labour. The colours of the meat and the fat of pork are regarded as more appetizing, while the taste and smell are described as sweeter and cleaner. It is also considered easier to digest. In rural tradition, pork is shared to celebrate important occasions and to form bonding. In China, pork is so important that the nation maintains a “strategic pork reserve”. Red braised pork (hong shao rou), a delicacy from Hunan Province, was one of Mao Zedong’s favorite dishes. Other popular Chinese pork dishes are sweet and sour pork, bakkwa, and charsiu. In the Philippines, due to 300 years of Spanish colonization and influence, lechon, which is an entire roasted suckling pig, is a national delicacy.