(BPT) – Pulled pork, ham steaks, chops, tenderloin and everyone’s favourite, bacon — Americans love pork, and consume about 64 pounds per person every year, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. But Americans’ interest in pork goes far beyond what barbeque sauce to use on it, or how to serve the perfect holiday ham; they also care about where their pork comes from and how it was raised, a new survey by Cargill shows.

With the USDA forecasting demand for pork will increase in 2017, Cargill polled more than 2,000 people in the U.S. and Spain to get an idea of what people want to know about pork, what they think they know, and what they want to learn. The Feed4Thought survey found that 43 percent of American millennials say a pig’s diet influences their purchasing decisions and — no surprise — bacon is their favourite pork product.

Caring about food sources

“Many consumers, millennials in particular, are speaking loudly about the importance of knowing what is on the dinner table and where it came from,” says Patrick Duerksen, Cargill global marketing director, pork. “It’s important to them to know the pork they eat was produced in a healthy and responsible manner.”

While millennials cared the most about pigs’ diets, they also trusted the least (42 percent) that the pork they eat has been raised on what they would consider a healthy diet. In reality, pigs largely eat corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals. Swine feed, like products developed by Cargill, are precise formulations that can incorporate probiotics, antioxidants and essential oils to promote better gut health, digestion and metabolism.

Feed facts

Millennials, and Americans in general, also overestimated the amount of feed required to nourish a pig to market weight of 275 pounds, the survey shows. Forty-one percent of millennials thought pigs need more feed to reach market weight today than they did 50 years ago, 27 percent were unsure and just 32 percent knew less feed is required.

Improved nutrition and efficiency of modern feed mean today’s pigs require less feed to reach market weight, Duerksen notes. Fifty years ago, a pig would need to eat more than 1,000 pounds of feed to reach market weight. Today, it requires just over 600 pounds.

Similarly, only a third knew it takes less land and water to raise a pig to market weight today than 50 years ago, while 37 percent thought more was required and 30 percent were unsure.

The future of pork

Ninety-four percent of all consumers polled by Cargill say they eat pork, with bacon, pork chops and ham being the three favorite cuts. The USDA reports that the U.S. is the third-largest pork producer and consumer in the world.

Americans aren’t the only people who love pork, either. Pork represents 40 percent of all meat consumed globally, according to the National Pork Board. The U.S. is the largest exporter of pork and pork products, accounting, on average, for more than 20 percent of the world’s commercial pork production, the USDA says.

“With demand for pork increasing domestically and globally, a growing number of consumers feel it’s important to know how the pork they’re eating was raised and the nutritional value of the feed pigs consume,” Duerksen says. “They already know pork tastes great and is a good source of protein and other nutrients. They also want to know their pork came from animals that were raised responsibly.”