Pork

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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two pork cutlets before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat pork?

Pork may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Like all meat, please take care to prepare and serve pork in an age-appropriate way as certain preparations can increase the choking risk. Looking for ribs? Visit our page on spare ribs.

Is pork a white meat or a red meat?

Pork is a red meat, though a generation of Americans know it otherwise.1 Confusion stems from an advertising campaign in the 1980s. At that time, United States pig farmers saw an opportunity when chicken began to compete with beef as America’s favorite meat. The industry launched a campaign to promote pork as “the other white meat” to an increasingly health-conscious American public, and the catchy phrase worked. Rich in fat and flavor, pork grew in popularity among Americans who were beginning to catch onto what many cooks have known for centuries: pork is delicious.

Humans have been raising domestic pigs and hunting wild boar for tens of thousands of years, and it has long been the world’s most consumed meat, despite two world religions that prohibit its consumption. Pork is cured to make bacon, sausage, and other preserved meats and freshly cooked into myriad delicacies, from Canadian tourtière to Cantonese char siu to Cuban lechon. In fact, cooks put the entire animal to use – from rich stews flavored with hocks and trotters, to crunchy cracklins made of fried skin, to jellies and sauces made of pork blood.

★Tip: When shopping for fresh pork, choose meat that is rosy pink to greyish pink in color. Avoid pork that smells bad, feels soft, or looks slimy.2 And if you buy a bigger cut, don’t worry about the rest going to waste, as cooked pork freezes very well. After cooking a big cut – such as pork shoulder or pork butt – portion the cooked meat into small containers to freeze for up to 6 months.3 This way, you’ll have easy access to child-sized portions at future mealtimes.

Cooper, 10 months, eats shredded pieces of pork chop.
Amelia, 11 months, eats bite-size pieces of pork chop. Note how Amelia’s mom tears the cubes of meat into smaller pieces here to reduce the risk of choking.
Callie, 16 months, eats bite-size cubes of pork chop. Note: Cubes of meat are a choking hazard for babies and especially those younger than 12 months of age. Wait until your child has established strong chewing, spitting and swallowing skills before offering cubes of meat.

Is pork healthy for babies?

Yes. Freshly cooked pork can be a healthy meat for babies when served as part of a balanced diet. The meat offers plenty of essential nutrients, including protein, vitamin B12, choline, and zinc. It also contains a bit of vitamin D, potassium, and selenium. Together, these nutrients fuel a child’s cell growth and cognition and power the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems.

Keep in mind that the type of meat matters: freshly cooked pork is generally a healthier choice for babies and toddlers because processed pork products like bacon, ham, salami, and sausage are usually very high in sodium and contain additives like nitrates, which may negatively affect oxygen levels in the blood when consumed in excess.4 5 In addition, processed meats (including cured pork) appear to have an association with cancer, while studies of freshly cooked pork’s association with cancer are not as conclusive.6 7 8

You may also consider how the animal was raised. Humans are just beginning to better understand the impacts of our use of pesticides, chemicals, and antibiotics. More than 90% of pigs in the United States are raised indoors on large-scale farms, given growth enhancers, and consume primarily grains like corn, soy, and wheat.9 10 These farming practices take a toll on the health of not just people but the land that we call home. While pork has less impact on the climate than beef, it consumes three times the amount of land and emits three times more carbon emissions than beans.11 Sustainable pork is a growing market, but agricultural challenges and the availability and price of the product may make it an impracticable option. Rest assured that the adage “all things in moderation” is a great way to serve pork and if pork is a major part of your family’s diet, this is a good area to spend a bit more for quality meat.

★Tip: Cook pork chops and other cuts of fresh pork to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius) and cook ground pork to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius) before serving.12  Undercooked and raw pork is a high-risk food and is associated with trichinosis (a parasite infection), taenesis (a parasite infection), yersiniosis (a bacterial infection), and other food-borne illnesses.13 14 15

Is pork a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. All meat, especially chunks and cubes of meat, is a choking hazard for babies and toddlers. To minimize the risk, shred or mince the meat, serve just a little at a time, and serve directly on the child’s highchair tray or the surface of the table in front of the child (and not in a suction bowl or plate, which makes it easier to scoop up big handfuls of food). As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment, stay within arm’s reach of baby at mealtime, and check out our age-appropriate serve suggestions.

For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Is pork a common allergen?

No. Pork is not a common food allergen, although reactions to pork have been reported.16 17 Certain tick bites (mainly the Lone Star tick in the continental United States, but other ticks in different parts of the world), are associated with the development of an allergy to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose (“alpha gal”), a sugar which is present in all non-primate mammalian meat. This results in a delayed allergic reaction 3-8 hours after red meat, such as pork, is consumed.18 However, some individuals with alpha gal allergy also react to small amounts of the sugar present in dairy products, gelatin, or organ tissues from mammals. Alpha gal allergy is more prevalent in the southeastern United States but is starting to become more common in other areas as the geographic distribution of the Lone Star tick expands. Although rare, some individuals with cat allergies may also develop a cross-reactive allergy to pork, a condition known as pork-cat syndrome.19

As you would do when introducing any new food, start by serving a small amount at first. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount served over future meals.

How do you prepare pork for babies with baby-led weaning?

An infographic with the title "How to Cut Pork Chop for Babies" and images of the food sizes by age: a large strip the size of two adult fingers or the bone for babies 6 to 8 months, bite size shreds for 9 to 12 months, and cut bite size pieces or a matchstick strip for 12 months and up

6 to 8 months old: At this age, bigger is better—and safer. Offer baby a pork chop on the bone with most of the meat cut off (make sure no parts of the bone are brittle or sharp). You can also serve large strips of pork chop about the size of two adult fingers held together or the pork chop bone (with any loose cartilage, gristle, chunks of meat, or bone removed) for baby to suck and munch on. Alternatively you could serve whole meatballs made from ground pork. Keep in mind that cooked pork can be quite resistive, and baby may not swallow much. If baby succeeds in biting off a too-big piece of meat, take a deep breath and give the child the opportunity to work with the food independently. Coaching baby to spit out too-big pieces of food by sticking out your own tongue can be helpful, too.

9 to 12 months old : At this age, babies develop a pincer grasp (where the thumb and pointer finger meet), which enables the child to pick up smaller pieces of food. That’s when you know that the time has come to move down in size and offer bite-sized pieces of pork (avoid cube shapes) or shredded pork, ground pork, or minced pork. You may also continue with whole pork ribs, making sure to model dramatic chewing and, as needed, spitting for safety.

12 months and up: Continue to offer bite-sized pieces of pork chop; shredded, chopped, or pulled pork; and whole spare ribs. If you feel comfortable you can also offer thin matchstick pieces for your toddler to practice biting and tearing. The thinner the matchstick, the lower the risk.

a thick strip of pork chop for babies 6 to 8 months of age
Strip of pork chop for babies 6 to 8 months old.
Bite size pork shreds for babies 9 months and up
Bite-size pork shreds for babies 9 months and up.

Need some meal-planning inspiration? Check out our breakfast, lunch, and dinner guides.

Recipe: Simple Pulled Pork in the Oven or Slow Cooker

shreds of pulled pork spread out on a white background for babies starting solids

Yield: 3 cups (950 milliliters)
Cooking Time: 3-6 hours
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds (1360 grams) boneless pork shoulder
  • 3 cups (600 grams) canned tomatoes (whole, diced, or crushed, ideally from a BPA-free can)
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon (20 grams) black pepper (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons (20 grams) ground coriander (optional)

Directions

  1. Defrost frozen meat in the fridge before you plan to cook.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (148 degrees Celsius), or set a slow cooker on the “low” setting.
  3. Place pork into a large oven-safe pot with a tight-fitting lid or the slow cooker.
  4. Add the tomato, garlic, onion, and spice.
  5. Cover the pot or the slow cooker. Cook until the meat is easily pulled apart with a fork, about 3 hours in the oven or up to 6 hours in the slow cooker. If you like, check that a pork’s internal temperature has reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius) before removing it from the heat.
  6. When the meat is ready, remove from the oven. Cool slightly. Transfer the meat to a cutting board. Cut away and discard any fat. Shred the meat. Place the shredded meat in a mixing bowl.
  7. Cook the sauce over medium-high heat until it has reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir the sauce into the bowl with the meat. Cool to room temperature.
  8. Scoop some meat in front of the child. Exact serving size is variable. Let the child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
  9. Serve and let the child self-feed by scooping with hands.

To Store: Cooked pork keeps when sealed in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 6 months. Portion the meat into small containers before freezing for easy access to child-sized portions at future mealtimes.

Flavor Pairings

Fresh pork has a mild gamey and sweet flavor that pairs well with fruits and vegetables like apple, apricot, asparagus, beetroot, black beans, broccoli, butternut squash, cabbage, cassava (yuca), celery, chayote, garden pea, onion, pear, potato, rutabaga, snap pea, snow pea, and more. Pork also tastes delicious with rich foods like chestnut, coconut, and egg. Pork tends to absorb flavor, so try cooking the meat with acidic fruits like lime, orange, papaya, pineapple, or tomato and seasoning the meat with spices like chili, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, or herbs like cilantro, dill, or thyme.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. United States Department of Agriculture. (2019). Is pork white meat? Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  2. United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. (2013). Fresh Pork from Farm to Table. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture. (2019). How long can you freeze cooked pork? Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  4. Karwowska, M., Kononiuk, A. (2020). Nitrates/Nitrites in Food-Risk for Nitrosative Stress and Benefits. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(3), 241. DOI:10.3390/antiox9030241. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  5. Ferysiuk, K., Wójciak, K.M. (2020). Reduction of Nitrite in Meat Products through the Application of Various Plant-Based Ingredients. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(8), 711. DOI:10.3390/antiox9080711. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  6. Lippi, G., Mattiuzzi, C., Cervellin, G. (2016). Meat consumption and cancer risk: a critical review of published meta-analyses. Critical Reviews in Oncology/Hematology, 97, 1-14. DOI:10.1016/j.critrevonc.2015.11.008. Epub 2015 Nov 17. PMID: 26633248. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  7. World Health Organization. (2015). Cancer: Carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  8. Carr, P.R., Walter, V., Brenner, H., Hoffmeister, M. (2016). Meat subtypes and their association with colorectal cancer: Systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Cancer, 138(2),293-302. DOI:10.1002/ijc.29423. Epub 2015 Feb 24. PMID: 25583132. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  9. Park, H.S., Min, B., Oh, S.H. (2017). Research trends in outdoor pig production – A review. Asian-Australasian journal of animal sciences, 30(9), 1207–1214. DOI:10.5713/ajas.17.0330. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  10. Kim, H.J., Nam, S.O., Jeong, J.H., Fang, L.H., Yoo, H.B., et al. (2017). Various levels of copra meal supplementation with β-Mannanase on growth performance, blood profile, nutrient digestibility, pork quality and economical analysis in growing-finishing pigs. Journal of animal science and technology, 59, 19. DOI:10.1186/s40781-017-0144-6. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  11. Ranganathan, J., Waite, R. (2016). Sustainable Diets: What You Need to Know in 12 Charts. World Resources Institute. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  12. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Chart. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  13. World Health Organization. (2021). Taeniasis/cysticercosis. Retrieved June 17, 2021.
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yersinia enterocolitica (Yersiniosis). Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  15. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parasites – Trichinellosis (also known as Trichinosis). Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  16. American College of Asthma, Allergy, & Immunology. Meat Allergy. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  17. Wilson, J.M., Platts-Mills, T. (2018). Meat allergy and allergens. Molecular immunology, 100, 107–112. DOI:10.1016/j.molimm.2018.03.018. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  18. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. Alpha-gal defined. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  19. Wilson, J.M., Platts-Mills, T. (2018). Meat allergy and allergens. Molecular immunology, 100, 107–112. DOI:10.1016/j.molimm.2018.03.018. Retrieved June 1, 2021.