Pigs are what they eat. It has been known since at least the 1880’s that the best, firmest bacon came from Denmark or Northern Canada. Both places are too far North to grow corn. Their pork was barley fed, and barley has less than half the PUFA of corn. Most american pork is corn-fed and has soft fat. Recent trends have produced pork with even higher PUFA – large ethanol distilleries in the Midwest have made dried distillers grains – containing up to three times the oil content of grain corn – a popular feed. Phenotypically lean hogs, created with classical genetic selection in the 1990s, have little ability to produce their own fat and are forced to get what fat they do have from the vegetable oils they are fed. Although the USDA official listing says lard has 11.2% PUFA, some lard samples have tested at over 30% PUFA!
All pork used at The Piggery is sourced from Feed2Fork LLC, a vertically oriented business that owns the pigs (at various farms), the feedmill that produces the feed for the pigs and controls the protocols by which the pigs are raised on pasture. This allows us to source proper genetics, produce feeds with a low PUFA content, and make sure the animals have a source of Omega 3 fats (from pasture and forages) to balance out the Omega-6 fats from the grains they are fed. Our lard has tested at only 6% PUFA! We are continuing to test our lard to determine the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, the amount of Arachidonic Acid, etc. Check this site for testing updates soon.
Why Low PUFA?
The consumption of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) has tripled in the US over the last 100 years, parallelling the increase in obesity rates.
Driving the trend:
- Increase in vegetable oil consumption (mostly soybean oil) – salad dressings, fried foods, mayonnaise, cooking oils, prepared foods (donuts, chips, baked goods)
- Shift from beef (4% PUFA) to chicken (>20% PUFA)
- Restaurant cooking – half of the menu is fried in veg oil, diner eggs are griddled in veg oil, all salads are dressed in veg oil dressings, etc.
- Changes in how livestock are raised – pork fat can range from 2% PUFA to over 30% depending on the specifics
This trend is continuing worldwide:
To paraphrase Ramsden, et al:
“The Omega 6 PUFA, linoleic acid (LA), is the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid in human diets, a major component of human tissues, and the direct precursor to the OXLAMs (Oxidized Linoleic Acid Metabolites). Because humans cannot synthesize LA de novo, dietary LA is the sole source of LA in blood and other tissues. OXLAMs have been implicated in a variety of pathological conditions. As a major component of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and atherosclerotic plaques, OXLAMs are reported to play a central role in foam cell formation and the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. OXLAMs also facilitate peripheral and central pain sensitization. Circulating OXLAMs, which are elevated in Alzheimer’s dementia and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), have been proposed as mechanism-based biomarkers useful for indicating the presence and severity of both conditions.”
Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2012 Oct; 87(4-5): 135–141.
If you’d really like to learn more about this topic, Check out the Firm Pork series on Brad’s blog, “Revolution Pig”.