Scientific Abstract

Background: Pork is the most consumed meat globally, providing high quality protein and several priority micronutrients. To qualify as sustainable, foods need to be nutrient rich, affordable, environmentally friendly, and socially acceptable.

Objective: The food sustainability framework has four domains: nutrition and health, economics, environment, and society.  The present objective is to assess the place of pork in the sustainability framework, given the upcoming 2025-30 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the EAT Lancet 2.0 report.

Design: Data for the present analyses came from the US Department of Agriculture nutrient composition and food prices data and from published literature.  Data on global trends came from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank.  

Results: Not all proteins are of equal quality.  The USDA protein foods (meat, poultry, fish and seafood, eggs, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds) have different amino-acid profiles, different per calorie prices, and different environmental footprints, measured in terms of greenhouse gas emission. The USDA Thrifty Food Plan combined beef, pork, and lamb into a single category of red meat. Present analyses show that product categories differ in protein costs, and impact on the environment.  Analyses of FAOSTAT food balance sheets joined with World Bank country incomes showed that rising incomes across lower-and middle-income countries create a growing demand for pork and chicken, to replace the traditional plant proteins. 

Conclusions: The present analyses explore the place of pork in healthy and sustainable global diets, given the need for high quality protein and current patterns of global food demand. This ongoing protein transition in the direction of animal proteins may be irreversible; it is consistent with Bennett’s law. Future analyses of foods’ nutrient density and monetary and carbon cost would do well to separate pork from beef, lamb and chicken.


Drewnowski A. Perspective: The place of pork meat in sustainable healthy diets. Adv Nutr. 2024 Mar 18:100213. doi: 10.1016/j.advnut.2024.100213