Turns out the "other white meat" can be eaten a little pink. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service will announce today that it has lowered its temperature recommendation for cooking pork to 145 degrees. That's a change from the agency's longstanding guideline and means pork will be held to the same standard as beef, veal, and lamb. For chefs, it means the USDA has sanctioned what already was common practice—one reason the pork from your grill may have been dryer than what you tasted at a fancy restaurant. The FDA, which regulates cooking in restaurants, has allowed the lower cooking temperature for a decade, now the two agencies will be on the same page.
Producers proposed the change in 2008, based in part on new production methods that reduced the risk of pathogens, like improved feed and housing methods. One important change has been to move hogs inside, reducing their exposure to wildlife, including birds and rodents that could carry disease, according to a swine expert. "As we've moved pigs inside, put them in bird proof buildings and applied rodent control, the incidence of (diseases) have dramatically reduced over the past 40 years," he said. (Read more USDA stories.)