Those three famous cows that encourage consumers to “Eat Mor Chikin” may have a new barnyard friend to pick on: The hog. Chickens can now breathe a sigh of relief as the pork industry takes aim at becoming the new lean meat.

The National Pork Board recently announced that changes in feeding and breeding techniques over the past 15 years have resulted in cuts of pork that can compete with, or can even be healthier than, skinless chicken breast. Pork tenderloin, according to the study, continues to meet guidelines set forth by the U.S. government to be classified as “extra lean.”

“Most people still don’t consider [pork] as healthy as chicken, so I think it’s going to blow the socks off of a lot of people,” Ceci Snyder, a marketing executive and registered dietitian at the National Pork Board, told the Associated Press.

According to the analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a 3-ounce serving of cooked pork tenderloin - 2.98 grams of fat - is as lean as the equal serving of skinless chicken breast - 3.03 grams of fat. The pork tenderloin contained 120 calories and the skinless chicken breast contained 140.

Heather Winn, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension, family and consumer sciences, said farming methods have been changed in order to secure better monitoring of the health of the animal.

“They may be raised indoors,” said Winn. “Housing helps with extreme weather - hot or cold. Lights helps monitor the health of the animal.”

Hogs are lower in fat because of improved farming practices, according to Snyder, who said producers are actually paid based on the leanness of their hogs.

“They have an incentive to raise a lean, muscular hog,” she said.

Jim Farar used to raise hogs south of town, and remembers a new product release being marketed about the time he chose to sell all of his walking and grunting creatures.

“When I stopped farming and raising hogs, a product called ‘Paylean’ was introduced,” said Farar. “Hog farmers were told it was supposed to eliminate extra fats around the meat of the pig.”

Farar never tried the product - his hogs weren’t raised for butchering, and he eventually sold them all - but research Farar had read said the product worked well, making the meat healthier without risk to the hogs or humans.

“I don’t even know if hogs in Oklahoma can be fed [Paylean],” said Farar. “But I know it’s a good deal to have a product that can lead to tasty and lean pork.”

Paylean was introduced to swine breeders as a food additive made by the company Elanco as a way to eliminate fat content surrounding a cut of meat, but bypass the fat inside the meat, according to Internet reviews. Though it continues to be met with some controversy by farmers, the product seems to be highly favorable by others.

“Pigs really aren’t that piggish. In fact, hogs today are 16 percent leaner than they were 15 years ago, and they contain 27 percent less saturated fat,” Howie Rumberg of the AP wrote in an article. “What are they taking, Lipitor?”

According to Rumberg, pork is now the No. 1 white meat in the world.

“I think most people who eat beef like pork as well, and it’s really not something you have to be a gourmet cook to prepare, so for an easy-to-fix, lean meal, pork tops beef in the comparison,” said Farar. “Except for ribs - I have trouble cooking those [pork] ribs on the grill.”

One of Rumberg’s experiences with cooking pork resulted in a bad meal, but he was determined to figure out the proper method for cooking the meat.

“There was still one more chop left and I was determined to get it right, so I went to the source: The National Pork Board, established by an act of Congress in 1985,” Rumberg wrote. “Timing is everything when it comes to pork. Because pork contains very little fat, it can go from flavorful and juicy to the texture of a shoe in a minute or two.”

Rumberg tried again, and succeeded by cutting his pork chops into thin strips.

“This method is quicker and easier to execute because you can see when the meat is done,” said Rumberg. “It’s not only useful for cooking for your child, but also for making stir fry or if you want to throw some pieces of meat into a salad.”

According to the USDA’s study, tenderloin ranked as the leanest of pork cuts. Other lean meats include bonless top loin chop, boneless top loin roast, center loin chop, center rib chop and bone-in sirloin roasts.

Saturated fat content dropped 27 for the lean cuts, and studies show those cuts have no trans fat; furthermore, as fat content dropped, some essential nutrients have increased.

Winn said a balance should be used when choosing pork for your next meal.

“It is healthy as long as you do choose the leaner cuts,” she said. “We are used to the good old way: Frying it up. We do need a little fat though, because it gives the cut more flavor and makes it tender.”

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