Whether you call it a pizza or a pie, Americans have enjoyed a long history of loving our pizza. Italian immigrants brought pizza along with them when they came to the United States in the late 19th century. And, since that time it’s become one of Americans’ favorite foods.
Of all the possible pizza toppings that we could choose, pepperoni ranks the highest followed by sausage according to a 2018 study from Caviar. With its savory flavors that pair well with flavorful marinara and gooey cheese, we can see–or rather taste –why we love our pepperoni pizzas! Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the U.S. and the top state for pork exports so it’s no wonder that pepperoni ranks high among Iowans. Midwestern states such as Michigan and Missouri also highly favor pork products like pepperoni, bacon, and ham on their pizzas. A few misguided states (I’m looking at you Maine) make the mistake of adding pineapple on their pizzas (I said what I said!).
Before we dive into the various pork meat toppings, let’s learn a few quick details about pigs and pork.
- Pork is the most consumed animal protein in the world (42%, poultry 35%, and beef 23%).
- Seven common cuts of pork are, on average, 16% leaner than 20 years ago.
- Pork is packed with high-quality protein. Our bodies can’t make essential amino acids so we need to get them from the foods we eat.
- Pork provides nine key nutrients we need each day.
- Thousands of fans show their appreciation for bacon by attending bacon festivals throughout the country. One is held annually here in Iowa – Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival
- Want more information on pigs? Read a few of our past blogs on pig: Pigs – The Inventors of Bacon, The Big Picture of Iowa’s Pork Production Cycle, Celebrating Porktober: Getting to Know Pig Breeds.
The delectable taste of pork on pizza
Now, let’s dive into a few of the favorite types of pork that grace our pizza.
According to Wikipedia, pepperoni is a variety of salami made from cured pork and/or beef seasoned with paprika or other chili pepper. The meat for pepperonis come from the pig’s back, shoulder, and the belly. Pepperoni gives us a soft, slightly smoky flavor and has a bright red color. So popular as a pizza topping, pepperoni is featured on the pizza emoji. Americans love our pepperoni, consuming 251.7 million pounds of it annually.
No matter its end destination, all pepperonis – whether sticks or chips – go through a production process. Specific cuts are chosen to achieve the target ratio of fat to lean meat. Once selected, the meat is put into a grinder and there, depending on the end use, the various seasonings such as paprika or cayenne pepper are added. Various other cultures are added along the way to help preserve the meat and give it a cured flavor. After the grinding process is completed, the pork is typically placed into filling machines which then place the meat into some type of casing. In the manufacturing process, the meat is smoked several times and then dried.
Sausage ranked second in pizza toppings. It’s a meat product made from ground meat, often pork, beef, or poultry, along with salt, spices, and other flavorings. Sausage is prepared much like pepperoni. Once meat is selected for fat ratio, it goes through a grinding process where seasonings are added then it’s put in casings and smoked.
On many meat lover options or breakfast pizzas, you’ll often find bacon added. Bacon is a type of salt-cured pork made from various cuts, usually the pork belly or from the less fatty back cuts. Americans love our bacon, spending $5 billion on it and eating 18 pounds of it annually.
Bacon’s popularity goes back to early times when people smoked it and cured it in their own homes. Today, bacon is made mainly through food manufacturers. Pork bellies go through a process to soften them and then they are put in a brine solution using water and salt to cure the pork. Liquid smoke and other seasons are also added in the process. After showering in a liquid smoke mixture, which adds more flavor and color to the surface, the pork is transferred into a big oven to cook the meat. It then goes into a freezer for a few days which makes the meat easier to slice. Finally, the meat is cooked again, inspected, and packaged.
Some pizza eaters like to add Canadian bacon to their pizzas. Canadian bacon is the American name for a form on back bacon that is cured, smoked and fully cooked, trimmed into medallions, and thickly sliced. This type of bacon is made from the lean eye of the loin. It tastes more like ham than other flavors due to its lean cut.
Fun Pizza Facts
- It’s believed that pizza was first invented in Naples, Italy in the 16th century
- Pizza is the favorite food (21%) over steak (16%), hamburgers (13%)
- Pizza wasn’t popular in America until after World War II
- Pizza is the preferred dish for cheating on your diet
- About 13 percent of the U.S. population consumes pizza on any given day, or 350 slices of pizza are eaten each second in the U.S.
- More than three billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. each year, plus another one billion frozen pizzas
- $38 billion worth of pizzas are sold annually in the United States
- 93 percent of Americans have eaten pizza in the last month
Bring Agriculture into Your Classroom through Everyone’s Favorite Meal – Pizza
Want to bring agriculture into your classroom? Bring in pizza with the following resources:
- Cracker Pizza Lesson Plan
- So You Want to Grow a Pizza book
- Extra Cheese, Please! Mozzarella’s Journey from Cow to Pizza book
- From Milk to Cheese (Who Made My Lunch?) book
- From Wheat to Bread book
We’re also launching a farm-to-table pizza competition called Pizz-a-thon! Check out our teacher resources and enter your classroom here!
Want more ideas of how to incorporate agriculture into your classroom through ways your students can relate? Contact an Ag in the Classroom Coordinator in your local area or a member of our staff for ideas.
All this talk of pizza has me craving some gooey, savory goodness! I’m off to find some pizza!
Know the Nutrients in Pork
History of Pizza
Pig Farming: Learn more about farming, pig breeds, and antibiotics
Iowa Pork Producers Association
How It’s Made: Bacon
USDA Pizza Facts
Most popular pizza toppings in every state
How pepperoni became America’s favorite pizza topping