A typical 3-oz serving of pork is an excellent source of protein, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B6, phosphorus and a good source of zinc and potassium. Many cuts of pork, including several cuts of chops and ham, meet the USDA criteria for a lean meat. The main objective of this project was to analyze food consumption survey data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (2003-2004 and 2005-2006) to estimate US pork consumption by various demographic groups and the nutritional contribution of pork to the diet of the US population.

Food consumption data collected by the 2003-04 and 2005-06 NHANES surveys were extracted and foods containing pork ingredients were identified. Pork ingredients were classified as fresh or processed pork consumed by the US population was classified into two categories: “fresh pork” and “processed pork” based on the criteria used by the USDA in an earlier assessment of pork consumption. Specifically, fresh pork products included pork chops, pork steaks, ribs, fresh ham, other fresh pork, and pork parts, while processed pork products included items such as lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and smoked ham. Pork products, whether fresh or processed, meeting USDA’s criteria of lean meat were classified as “lean”.
Food consumption data were combined with the most recent nutrient composition data available from USDA to generate nutrient intake estimates.

Pork consumption is relatively common with more than 64% of the US population age 2 year or older reporting consumption of a pork food on at least one of the 2 survey days in NHANES. Fresh pork consumption is less frequent than processed pork consumption (16% vs. 58% consumers for the total US population 2 years or older, and lean pork consumption is also relatively limited (28% consumers). The mean per capita consumption of total pork is 29.2 g/day. Processed pork constitutes the majority of that intake (21.7 g/day or 74% of total pork consumption). Thirty-seven percent (37%) of all pork consumed can be classified as “lean” based on USDA’s criteria.
Pork consumption is an important contributor to the micro-nutrient intakes among pork consumers. Specifically, pork consumers get more than 10% of their Vitamin B3, phosphorous, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and zinc RDAs from pork, and more than 20% of their selenium, sodium, and Vitamin B1 RDAs from pork.

Fresh and lean pork consumers get less cholesterol, fat and saturated fat, and more protein from fresh pork than processed pork consumers get from processed pork.

A comparison of the nutrient contribution from pork to total nutrient intakes to the nutrient contribution from other foods shows that pork is one of the top ten most important contributors to all the nutrients (except magnesium) that were examined in this study.