By Harold McGee
Pigs are descendents of the Eurasian wild boar, Sus scrofa. If beef has been the most esteemed of meats in Europe and the Americas, pork has fed far more people, both there and in the rest of the world: in China the word for “pork” is also the generic word for “meat.” The pig has the virtues of being a relatively small, voracious omnivore that grows rapidly and bears large litters. Its indiscriminate appetite means that it can turn otherwise useless scraps into meat, but that meat can harbor and transmit parasites from infected animals and their remains (trichinosis). Perhaps in part for this reason, and because pigs are difficult to herd and will devour field crops, pork eating has been forbidden among various peoples, notably Middle Eastern Jews and Muslims.