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How dirty is pig compared to other meats?


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#1 Mr Rayon

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 01:33 PM

I think I heard somewhere that Jews/Muslims aren't allowed to touch or eat pig because they think it's dirty. However, is pig really that much more dirty than say beef or chicken? Have any objective scientists out there determined whether there is a big difference in the amount of bacteria living in the meat of pig compared to other forms of meat? Is eating pig as opposed to other meats really such a huge threat to human health?
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#2 CaptainPanic

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 02:02 PM

I think that there is a difference between pig meat now and pig meat a long time ago (100 years or more)... but I cannot back that up with a reference or something (sorry).
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#3 ewmon

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 04:16 PM

There's been a longstanding concern about trichinosis. We have known for some time that porcine physiology is fairly compatible with that of humans. An obvious concern exists that pigs act as vectors for human diseases (eg, swine flu). We use porcine insulin and heart valves in humans (however, some Jews and Muslims refuse these products). There's serious ongoing research to use more porcine body parts (including genetically altering pigs to reduce their rejection by humans) in xenotransplantations to help relieve the chronic shortages for transplants. Doesn't it seem as though everyone needs a kidney?

I would hesitate to use the word "dirty" to describe the nature of pigs. The reputation given to pigs for their uncleanliness is undeserved because most of it results from humans placing them in small pens and typically adjacent to other pigpens. Pigs are highly intelligent and naturally clean. They are the only livestock that can control their urination and defecation, and some people keep miniature pigs as housebroken pets.

Pigs will naturally use the coolest and darkest part of their area as their "toilet" and, if given enough space, will spend the rest of their time away from it, typically in the warm, sunny part of their area where they can eat, sleep and explore. Pigs are territorial, and they will mark the edges of their territory (ie, pens) with dung if they know there's other pigs nearby. Farmers put pigs in firmly-walled "pens" as compared to corrals, paddocks and pastures, because pigs enjoy digging and rooting around, and they would easily escape from corrals etc.

Many pigs don't have much of what could be called fur or hair and they lack sweat glands, so they resort to methods to help warm and cool themselves, typically lying in the sun or the shade. Pigs can get sunburned. They should have a shelter for relief from the hot sun and inclement weather. They enjoy wallowing in water and mud as many livestock do, but more so, and they also enjoy getting watered down in hot weather.
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#4 Ringer

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 06:07 PM

I don't think they meant dirty in a 'it has dirt on it' kind of way. Just the same way as they believe a women on her period is dirty, more commonly used is unclean, so they are not to be touched. A theory I have heard on the biblical prohibitions on certain foods is that it was a way to tell those who are in your clan and those who are not. If someone brings pork as an offering of peace then they are unclean and not to be dealt with. The same goes for any cloven hoofed animal, shellfish, etc. for those religions that follow the old testament
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#5 insane_alien

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 06:37 PM

pigs are pretty close to humans. a lot of diseases transfer very easily between us. thats why you don't eat raw pork. this isn't a problem now as we understand how cooking makes meat safe now but 2000 years ago you would contract a noticably larger amount of disease after eating pork than beef, mutton or poultry. hence it was regarded as 'dirty'.

the amount of bacteria in pork would be the same as in any other meat product, but the key difference is the type of bacteria. especially the potential of those types to infect humans.
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#6 CharonY

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 07:14 PM

I assume that the transferable diseases were mostly parasites (as ewmon mentioned) as well as a number of viruses. Bacteria tend to be somewhat less specific in that regard.
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#7 rigney

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 04:19 PM

I'm just thankful that our hogs must have been pretty clean. As a kid of the forties and living out of the way, I sampled what would have probably amounted to a good sized "shoat" over that time period. When Dad made sausage each fall, I was the guinea pig and probably sampled enough raw pork to kill an army had it been bad. "I loved it"! Pop and his buddies would grind the pork, put in the salt, sage, sugar, etc. Me, I would taste test it. Raw sausage to me was like candy. Pop and his buddies also did the taste test, but nothing like I would have done had they let me. Salt and sugar was rubbed into the hams, shoulders and side meat, then hung in the smoke house to cure. Made even the worst winter worth living.

Edited by rigney, 24 December 2010 - 04:21 PM.

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#8 Marat

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 06:51 PM

Although there may have been some medical logic to forbidding the consumption of pig meat in Judaism and Islam, some have argued that eating pigs seems too close to cannibalism -- given the similarity between pig faces and some human faces, as well as between the image of a pig and an overweight, naked human -- so the revulsion at eating our own species was transferred to pigs as well.

Whenever I have been driving in the country, I have always noticed that the people seem to look like the animals they raise: pig-faced farmers raise pigs, the sheep-faced have sheep, and horse-headed folk have cattle ranches. Is this just the power of suggestion or is there something else going on here?
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#9 Sisyphus

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 07:19 PM

Although there may have been some medical logic to forbidding the consumption of pig meat in Judaism and Islam, some have argued that eating pigs seems too close to cannibalism -- given the similarity between pig faces and some human faces, as well as between the image of a pig and an overweight, naked human -- so the revulsion at eating our own species was transferred to pigs as well.


I don't know about that, but supposedly human flesh also tastes a lot like pork, to the point where there are a couple of documented cases of murderous butchers selling it as such and getting away with it for a while. (Other accounts claim it is similar to veal.)
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I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

#10 Mr Skeptic

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 05:10 PM

Well pigs are somewhat similar to humans, which is a problem due to common parasites, at least for raw meat. The fact that pigs are omnivores and also eat meat increases the risk of parasites as well. Before cooking was common, eating pigs was probably not such a good idea. As always, people make mistakes and sometimes undercook their meat or do other silly things, but for the most part I wouldn't worry about it.
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