Pork industry strives for consumer simplicity

National Pork Board in the United States works with meal kit providers to supply consumers with ready-to-cook products

DES MOINES, Iowa — People don’t know how to prepare and cook pork.

So now the food and pork industries are preparing it for them and showing them how to cook it.

The U.S. pork industry is working with “meal kit” providers to help supply ready-to-cook, pork-based ingredient packages to consumers’ doors.

“It’s a great way for us to introduce pork to people who may not be that familiar with our product, and then ensure that it’s a positive eating experience,” said Jarrod Sutton, the U.S. National Pork Board’s vice-president for domestic markets, in an interview during the World Pork Expo.

His comment hits two problems the pork industry is facing:

  • Many consumers have never cooked pork.
  • Many consumers have had bad experiences from trying to cook pork, or eating overcooked pork .

Meal kits by high profile providers like Blue Apron supply boxed ingredients that can be combined and cooked in a few minutes by following simple, attached instructions.

Sutton said the pork industry has long known it has a problem with people having trouble cooking pork, so its relatively low price and good nutritional qualities aren’t always enough to entice shoppers.

“Consumers struggle with consistently achieving a delicious eating experience,” said Sutton.

“Three out of four people think it has to be cooked all the way through.”

In recent years, food companies and grocery stores have created many new products that make cooking ribs and shoulders easy, with “pull and cook” plastic packaging of pre-smoked ribs and pre-cooked pulled pork helping to break down the intimidation factor.

But Sutton thinks meal kits could do the same for loin cuts, with pork chops having slid from a mainstay item for most families.

With meal kits, everything can be provided in the right form and with the right instructions, opening the door to better loin use.

“How do we ensure we’re differentiating the product from one end of the loin to the other?” said Sutton.

“If you can put the right prescriptive amount along with directions for time and temperature, for loin cuts in particular, chances are people are going to follow that to a tee and they’re going to have a good eating experience.”

So far, results of the pork board working with meal kit companies have been good, with “pork chops being more heavily represented than any other protein offering inside of Blue Apron’s meal kits.”

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