Food Safety and Alternatives in the Age of Swine Flu

Published on: 20/02/2021

With the high prices of pork and poultry meat in the market, what are the other options to try?

With the prices of pork and chicken meat soaring up, there is a need to look for alternatives that are filling, yet healthy and economical. After all, we wouldn’t want to compromise our family’s health with the meat dishes we are serving. 

In its February 8 article, CNN Philippines reported that the supply of pork is decreasing as the African swine fever (ASF) continues to decimate the herd populations. Because of this, prices have been steadily rising, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to issue a mandate that declares a 60-day price ceiling on pork and chicken products sold in the National Capital Region. 

As all of these factors come into play, consumers may have to deal with fewer sources of protein for the next few weeks. It is therefore important to know our options when it comes to our food choices and the precautions necessary when it comes to our food safety. 

What is African Swine Fever?

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, ASF is a highly contagious hemorrhagic viral disease that affects domestic and wild pigs. While it is not a risk to human health, it can lead to serious economic and production losses. This is because the reported mortality rates for ASF may be as high as 100%, with deaths in hogs occurring 6-13 days (or up to 20 days) after infection.

The African swine fever has been spreading in the country since 2019. In a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, this has led to the deaths of 4.5 million hogs. Without any approved vaccine yet for this viral hog disease, breeders have been hesitant to make reinvestments.

How can we continue buying meat safely?

The Department of Health (DOH) assures the public that as long as we buy pork from reliable sources, and cook the meat thoroughly, it is still safe to eat pork. That said, the DOH also asked for our cooperation in reporting any significant animal disease incidence to our respective municipal, city, or provincial veterinary offices.

What are pork and chicken meat alternatives?

All these consequently resulted in an increased demand for chicken meat, and the price of poultry likewise elevated in recent weeks. As we look for protein alternatives, we can opt for beef, seafood, or the following more budget-friendly alternatives:

  • Tofu is a good source of protein and essential amino acids. Because it is versatile and has a mild taste, you can try marinating it so it takes on a flavor that you would prefer. It is a good substitute for eggs, or you can mix it in soups or viands.
  • Tempeh is another soy-based meat substitute. Unlike tofu, tempeh is made from the whole soybean, not soy milk. It has a drier texture and a stronger flavor because it has undergone a fermentation process. You can saute or stir fry it, and even use it as a barbecue meat substitute. If you have not tried tempeh before, this may be an opportune time to see whether you have taste for it. 
  • Potatoes are a popular meat substitute. In some dishes, they are used for the vegetarian versions of burgers, soups, or casseroles. It has been said that they can be cooked to imitate the texture of chicken relatively well. Potatoes are extremely versatile and quite filling because of their protein that can curb appetite. 
  • Jackfruit is a tropical fruit gaining popularity as a meat substitute. When used for cooking, the nonripe jackfruit is generally used. Because its flavor is neutral, it can take on all kinds of seasonings. Its texture is also comparable to shredded pork or chicken, so it is used in most vegetarian and vegan dishes as a meat substitute. 
  • Other Protein-Rich Plant Foods are whole foods such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, and nuts that are rich in protein. Mushroom is another good substitute because it has a meaty texture and can work well in several dishes. These are also the reasons why many food manufacturers include these types of food in their vegetarian and vegan offerings.

One thing to remember though is that not all plant foods contain all the essential amino acids that our body needs. We must, therefore, eat a variety of foods in order to get all the nutrients for a healthy diet. With these options, we can still serve healthy, delicious, and filling meals for ourselves and our loved ones.