Old-Days Pork LoinsFebruary 23, 2021 • By George Wolfer
Get that junk outta here!
This pictured booklet does not have a publishing date on it, but it likely came out sometime in the late 1960’s. My Vocational High School Meat Processing instructor gave it to me in 1974. That’s my instructor’s, Frank J. Bussey’s signature in the top left corner.
This pork promotion booklet was published well before the long-running “Other White Meat” campaign started in 1987. 1987 was in the midst of the now disproven all “fat is bad” era; where chicken, and to a lesser extent turkey, gained rapidly in per-capita consumption.
As you can see from the booklet’s introduction paragraph at the top of this page, a more comprehensive hard-covered 88 page pork loin merchandising manual was readily available around that time for $2.50.
I don’t own this hard-cover edition, but did find one offered online for $15. The copyright date is 1966. “Eating high on the hog” (well marbled pork loins) was once a wide-spread practice.
Even in black & white, a comparatively high degree of marbling and seam fat is easily discernable in the pictured 7 Rib Blade Loin roast.
The demand for pork roasts and meat loaves declined significantly as the commercially further processed, long-term convenience food paradigm took hold.
As lean bacon, lean hams and leaner sausages gained in popularity, the corresponding low-fat loin chops became less flavorful and juicy.
So it soon became less profitable to fabricate labor-intensive retail items out of those less tasty pork loins.
Eventually, more loin meat was left on slow-cooking baby-back BBQ ribs; because that bone containing cut demands twice as much per pound as the low-fat, boneless, closely trimmed pork loin muscle. And, that happened in spite of the fact that the more tender loin muscles tend to dry out during long rib cooking. BBQ sauce can add back some of the illusion of the juiciness palatability characteristic.
Chine and hip bones were removed during harvest plant cut fabrication because that practice lowers shipping weight of none edible product, bones often cause wholesale meat cut vacuum bags to leak and pork trimmings are more cost-efficiently gathered at the wholesale level; where they are often sold in volume for making further-processed precooked convenience items.
Approximately 75% of the average market hog carcass is further processed into fully cooked retail end items.
Due to low consumer demand, fresh boneless pork loins and fresh pork shoulder butts are now routinely offered comparatively inexpensively.
Pumping a small amount of a salt-water solution into retail fresh pork cuts aids in cooked product moisture retention, adds some flavor and increases retail meat weight.
The mainstream pork industry long ago moved to big, lean hogs. Long hogs tend to throw more pigs per litter and larger animals weigh more per production unit. As mentioned before, today’s leaner bacon and hams are in demand. And, there’s still plenty of trim fat generated to make good eating sausages.
Back -in-the-day, bone-in pork loins were shipped to retail stores in long cardboard boxes. At that time there were no vacuum bags used, individual loins were wrapped in wax paper.
Todays wetter fresh pork wholesale cuts are not shipped in wax paper because vacuum packaging increases their shelf-life and the cardboard shipping container would be soaked through from those modern “minimally processed” fresh pork cuts. Water and salt are classified as “Natural” additives; so All Natural fresh meat cuts are permitted to contain them.
Now a day, a lot of retail Meat Departments only need to be staffed by boneless boxed meat cutters.
A lot of chefs have bemoaned the fact that most modern mainstream pork loins tend to lack flavor and juiciness when fully cooked.
The solution to the lack of palatability that the chefs came up with was to buy locally raised lard type hog; that are now called Heritage breeds.
The partial return to raising hogs on pasture and/or in woodlands has largely resurrected the need to make sure that pork is cooked to a high enough internal temperature to assure that possible trichinella spiralis is killed. Non-confinement hog raising also causes a much higher percentage condemned livers due to liver flukes.
Returning to non cost-efficient, on-site whole animal butchery is a current trend in both restaurants and at artisan butcher shops. So higher meat prices need to be charged at low-volume, labor-intensive establishments.
Instead of going from too lean to too fat hogs, the middle ground covered in this old booklet would seem to be most profitable for some segments of the present-day pork industry.
The USDA currently has Official Pork Carcass Grading Standards; which are voluntary and could be used on a fee-for-service basis. The Pork Grading Standards mainly deal only with carcass yield and are not used by the mainstream pork industry. And, since there are currently very little meat quality considerations in the USDA Official Pork Carcass Grading Standards for market hogs, neither restaurants or artisan butchers have much interest in them either. In 2017 and 2018 there were calls for pork industry discussion on possibly revising the Pork Grading Standards, but I have yet to hear anymore about it.