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Consumers are catching on to ground pork potential

nhf-npb-groundpork-ragu.jpg National Pork Board
Before the pandemic, ground pork sales had been flat in both dollars and pounds sold.

In case you missed it, this past Wednesday was National Lasagna Day. No worries, I missed that one too, but the Spicy Pork Italian Sausage Lasagna Dish recipe the Wisconsin Pork Association shared on Facebook this week sure had me thinking of whipping one up soon.

I remember being in college, and just a newlywed, when I discovered the difference substituting pork sausage for hamburger could do to a lasagna. Back then we used to get a half of a hog for Christmas from my husband's parents and it always seemed like "our half" was mostly bacon and pork sausage. (No complaining here!)

Growing up, my family really only used ground pork for scrambled eggs (which probably had to do with the fact that my family candled eggs for a living) so 22-year-old me had to get creative in the kitchen.

Now I will only use ground pork in my lasagna or spaghetti sauce.

Since COVID-19 has upended consumer eating and cooking habits, it looks like more folks have caught on to the secret ingredient and are ditching ground beef for pork.

According to the National Pork Board's "Insight to Action," from March 1 through June 14, 45% of ground pork shoppers were people who had not purchased it in the year prior. Before the pandemic, ground pork sales had been flat in both dollars and pounds sold. The data from Numerator also found 80% of new buyers were very or extremely satisfied with their ground pork purchase, and 89% said they probably or definitely will buy ground pork again.

As the "Insight to Action" newsletter reminds retailers and packers, ground pork isn't just for Italian dishes. Ground pork also works well in many Asian and Hispanic dishes. I've found that out firsthand as ground pork has definitely made my chili and taco soup much more flavorful.

Ground pork is not just a substitute for other protein; it has a number of attributes that new consumers are discovering in 2020. It is flavorful, easy to use, versatile and freezes well to meet both current and future needs.

It's been more than 15 years since I started experimenting with ground pork, and I'm still finding new things I need to try, including the famous Iowa ham balls and Iowa Made-Rites. What are some of your favorite recipes using ground pork? What secret sauces or culinary tips or tricks using ground pork can we share with consumers to keep them coming back to ground pork in the meat case?

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