Should I Eat it?: Pork

In America, putting bacon on a dish is about the equivalent to deep frying in the South. You name it, they can add bacon. There are bacon milkshakes, bacon cupcakes, bacon pancakes, bacon ice-cream... People love some bacon. I used to be one of those people before God opened my eyes. My post called "The Christian Diet" details my discoveries and why I think as Christians we should be following the dietary restrictions. This post will be about the good, bad, and ugly of pork. I have also discussed what it was like giving up pork, particularly as someone who grew up in the deep South.
Photocredit: FreeImages.com/Jeff Siepman
In America, putting bacon on a dish is about the equivalent to deep frying in the South. You name it, they can add bacon. There are bacon milkshakes, bacon cupcakes, bacon pancakes, bacon ice-cream... People love some bacon. I used to be one of those people before God opened my eyes. My post called "The Christian Diet" details my discoveries and why I think as Christians we should be following the dietary restrictions. This post will be about the good, bad, and ugly of pork. I have also discussed what it was like giving up pork, particularly as someone who grew up in the deep South.
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Giving Up Pork

Like most people who attend church regularly but don't bother to read their Bibles, or people who have their favorite chapters and only read those chapters, in college I was only vaguely aware of the dietary restrictions. I knew that pork was unclean, but I didn't necessarily think about shrimp or more exotic foods like snake or alligator. I wasn't the biggest fan of pork, but I was a fan of bacon. When my dad would cook breakfast on Sunday morning, the bacon was always ready before we were ready to eat, and I was always at the stove ready to steal a piece before sitting at the table. The first time I actually put any thought into eating pork was my senior year in college. My History of the Old Testament professor made the claim that Christians didn't eat pork, and at that point, I didn't know a single Christian who followed the dietary restrictions. As I pondered his misinformation, I wondered why we ate pork, after all I did know enough to know it was definitely listed as unclean in the Bible. As I began my search for answers, I decided to give up pork until I had an answer. It turned out to be easy since I'm not the biggest fan of pork, but also because I was constantly praying for an answer from God. As time went on, I didn't have any desire for pork; it wasn't that I was depriving myself of pork, but that I didn't want any.
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The Hard Part
The Delimma Thoughts Solutions
There are a few meats made of pork that I never thought about as being pork product (i.e. pepperoni) Previously, I didn't worry about what I was eating, which is bad on many levels, so I didn't always know what was in the meat I ate or where it came from. I spend more time thinking about what the food I'm eating is made of (not just to eliminate pork). This is a good thing, because I'm more conscious of what I'm putting in my body.
Even though I don't like pork chops or pork tenderloin, and I only ate sausage and bacon because they were around, I did eat ham (no more Chicken Cordon Bleu!) and hot dogs. Most pork products were foods I never crave, but would eat if they were present, but I love deli ham as a snack, I always choose hot dogs over hamburgers, and pepperoni pizza is a lot more interesting than cheese pizza. Hots dogs are an easy fix; beef hot dogs cost a little more, but in my opinion they actually taste better. There are vegan substitutes for ham, and of course there is turkey bacon for the bacon lovers. I haven't tried any of these substitutes, once I began praying and took on the challenge, it didn't bother me. For sandwiches, I get turkey or roast beef (or deli chicken). I haven't had any cravings for Chicken Cordon Bleu, but if I do, I'll either try the substitute, or use turkey. It was weird for maybe the first few weeks, then I didn't notice at all.
Southern tradition In the South everything is cooked in pork. If you grew up with no aversions to pork or outside of these southern traditions, you would never think these foods were a problem. There's ham rice, which is cooked in ham broth, but looks like perlo rice. Also, most vegetables are cooked in fat back or with a ham hock. Butter is a great substitute for fat back in vegetables for those used to that style of cooking. It has to be added throughout the cooking process (a little at the beginning, then a little more when it starts boiling, and a little more when it's almost done. Also, add in some extra seasoning—I use seasoning salt and Accent. The first time I tried this it was too salty, but once I got the hang of it, it tasted exactly the same.
Friends I noticed early on that many people had something to say about what I wasn't eating. When I stated I didn't eat pork, people were quick to throw out their opinions and tell me how wrong or "stupid" I was. The same people who told me I was wrong for not eating pork supported vegetarianism and veganism. You can understand someone giving up all meat for moral reasons or personal reasons (or in one case because they were simply raised that way), but you can't understand someone giving up certain foods for God? That shows the fruit of the devil is at work. Stand firm and be confident in your decisions. For me, these people actually did more to confirm I was doing the right thing than anything else. We know that the devil controls the world and he's always going to get mad when you follow God! My response was always a gentle (ok may be the first couple times weren't so gentle) reminder that my decision on what to eat is mine alone, it doesn't affect them and thus their opinion doesn't matter.
Family Family is probably the hardest part. There is a two-fold issue at work here. First off, there's the fact that the people closest to you will be wary of change. Your mom will cook you a dish with pork in it and be upset that you don't want to eat it. They're going to say "you changed" or "you forgot your roots" or ask if you've changed religions and such. Then there's the issue that since it's your journey, not theirs, they probably won't understand your motives so they may discourage you from continuing your journey. They won't be doing research to see what meat is actually from pork or check to see if the hot dogs are beef instead of pork. Your family probably isn't going to stop cooking their vegetables in fat back and they'll suggest you just pick around it because they don't understand that the pork makes anything it touches unclean. This is a struggle that is not easy to solve. For some families, a simple conversation may solve everything, but for others this will be a constant battle. You may have to choose between God and family (see Matthew 10:37).

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What's So Bad About Pork?

Bacon may be America's favorite food, judging from menu items and the behavior of most people I know, but pork is hazardous to our health. A friend once became annoyed when I asked if pork could be substituted with beef in a meal at a restaurant (which says a lot in and of itself, why should someone else care what I eat?). This person was adamant that the reason Jews didn't eat pork was because they couldn't cook it properly and it was "silly" to think we should follow the practice today. I outline the dangers of this type of thinking in my post entitled The Christian Diet, but right now, let's focus on what the hazards of pork are (and whether they still apply).
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LA-MRSA

The untreatable superbug, livestock associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LA-MRSA), is running rampant in UK pigs and is transmissible to humans. Over 2/3 of the Danish farms tested were found to be infected with this bacteria. The pork industry has been accused of trying to hide the issue and the UK has decided not to test pork because they consider the risk minimal. Although the bacteria can be present in other animals, the majority of people infected with LA-MRSA work with pigs infected with MRSA.[1] Furthermore, it is thought that transmission of the bacteria to other animals also comes from pigs.[2] Note that the major cause of this may be the usage of antibiotics in livestock, and the danger is that this breeds bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.[3] An influx of this bacteria will require man to reinvent treatment, as the treatments we now have will no longer be sufficient. This was not a problem in Moses' day, but it is a problem in our day. The pork industry in the UK has released a statement ensuring that the risk of contracting MRSA through consumption—provided good hygienic practices and proper cooking—is low, though it does not state the probability of contracting the disease as a pig farmer or handler.[4] Another source notes that while the transmission rate seems low now, the bi-directional nature is not rare occurrence and a pandemic clone of the bacteria currently spreading, is thought to have had an origin in cattle, though it is not stated whether this version spread from pigs to cattle or originated in cattle.[5] All instances of LA-MRSA are from mankind meddling with God's original design (animals were not meant to be shot up with antibiotics). The fact that clean meat such as cattle is also affected is discussed in "The Christian Diet" as part of the section on Christians who advocate for veganism and vegetarianism in the end days. Another source calls pig compartments a "major hot spots for transmission of MRSA and/or ESBL-E."[6]
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Other Pathogens Found in Pork

LA-MRSA isn't the only pathogen to be worried about when it comes to pork, though. Consumer Reports found that 69% of pork was contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica, which can cause bloody diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain.[9][10] The same study found 11% to be contaminated with enterococcus, which stems from fecal contamination; enterococcus can cause urinary-tract infections. Other pathogens (such as salmonella) were also found in 3-7% of the samples.[9]
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Cultivating Pork

Forbes says, "No matter how you slice it, pork is nasty business." According to their findings, pork production is responsible for a large portion of green house gas (GHG) emission (only surpassed by lamb, beef, and cheese). They also conclude "what happens inside pork facilities is horrifying in a different sort of way. Pigs–remarkably intelligent and emotionally aware creatures–are routinely abused in ways that no conscientious consumer, if she knew the details, would tolerate."[7] Which brings up the fact that pigs, like apes and dolphins which are also forbidden from our diet, are highly intelligent. Perhaps part of the reason God forbade us from eating pigs is that it's inhumane due to their level of intelligence. In regard to the emission of GHG, note that according to the Forbes' source on emissions, meat in general is the highest contributor to GHG,[8] which may lend to the argument of the Christians advocating for vegetarianism (see The Christian Diet). In PETA's top ten reasons not to eat pork the treatment of the pigs is a reoccurring theme, from how they are held captive, their inhumane slaughter, and the way they are transported.[11]
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Health

Pork is known to clog arteries and increase cholesterol. It increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzhiemer's disease, asthma, and impotence. In addition it can lead to excess fat around your stomach. [11] In addition, a stronger link has been found between pork and cirrhosis of the liver than alcohol and cirrhosis. Relatedly, since pork damages the liver, it also increases your risk for liver cancer. Multiple Sclerosis is another disease that researchers were able to correlate with consumption of pork; this correlation was not found with respect to consumption of beef.[12]
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Is There Anything Good About Pork?

Pork can have less fat than other meats—that is if you are eating the leaner cuts, which don't include the popular bacon or ham. The same article suggesting that there is less fat, however, warns that there may be more sodium or preservatives which raise blood pressure and increase your risk for cancer.[13] Other benefits listed for pork include protein (which you can also get from chicken), iron (which you can get from beef or spinach), and potassium (which you can get from bananas).[14]
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Conclusions

My friend was under the impression that pork used to be bad for you but modern science has fixed that. What she neglected was foresight. Promiscuous sex is dangerous; science provided us with antibiotics, now most STDs are curable, but then came along HIV, Herpes, HPV, etc. which are not curable. The same applies to pork. Will you die shortly after eating a piece of pork, probably not—just as Adam and Eve didn't die directly after eating the forbidden fruit. Only God knows the future, and perhaps, He foresaw one of His end of days plagues stemming from pork. It's also possible that He simply didn't want us to eat pork without any reason relating to whether the meat is good or bad for us. It could be symbolic, or it could be that God liked pigs so much He didn't want to see them killed. We don't know why God said not to eat pork, but it's definitely not as safe as some claim.
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References

  1. The Guardian. "Revealed: LA-MRSA, the pig superbug living in your fridge | Guardian Investigations". YouTube. June 2015
  2. De Faveri, E., Rimoldi, S., Pagani, C., and Sala, V. "Interspecific Epidemiology of MRSA in Pig Farming". Journal of Infectious Diseases & Therapy. 2:135. doi: 10.4172/2332-0877.1000135. 2014
  3. Harvey, F.and Wasley, A. "What is the superbug LA-MRSA CC398 and why is it spreading on farms?". The Guardian. June 2015
  4. "LA-MRSA Update". National Pig Association, British Meat Processors Association, and BPEX. February 2015
  5. Smith, T.C. "Livestock-Associated Staphylococcus aureus: The United States Experience". PLoS Pathog. 11(2): e1004564. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004564. 2015
  6. Schmithausen, R.M., et al. "Analysis of Transmission of MRSA and ESBL-E among Pigs and Farm Personnel". PLoS One. 10(9):e0138173. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138173. eCollection. 2015
  7. McWilliams, James. "U.S. Pork Wallows In Dangerous Antibiotics, Pollution, Welfare Violations". Forbes. October 2013
  8. "Climate and Environmental Impacts". Meat Eater's Guid To Climate Change + Health. 2011
  9. "Pork chops and ground pork contaminated with bacteria". Consumer Reports. January 2013
  10. "Yersinia". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015
  11. "Top 10 Reasons Not to Eat Pigs". People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 2015
  12. Jaminet, Paul and Jaminet, Shou-Ching. "Is Pork Still Dangerous?". Psychology Today. February 2012
  13. Volek, Jeff and Campbell, Adam. "8 Fatty Foods with Health Benefits". Men's Health. April 2015
  14. Busch, Sandi. "What Are the Health Benefits of Pork Chops?". Healthy Eating. 2015
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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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