Look for: Meat that is light red to cherry red, never pale or white. The fat should be white and creamy with no dark spots. Fresh pork should never have any off odors. The best-tasting pork is marbled with flecks of fat interspersed in the lean meat.
Avoid: Pale, soft pork sitting in the package in liquid. This pork is called PSE (pale, soft and exudative) and indicates pork that comes from animals mishandled during processing. When you push down on the pork it will not spring back and when you cook it even more juices will flow out. The meat will be dry and tasteless even when cooked to the desired degree of doneness. Alert the manager at your store that you got bad meat.
"Enhanced" Pork: Because lean pork can dry out so quickly when cooked, many manufacturers sell something called "enhanced" pork. It is injected with a solution of water, salt and phosphates. The percentage of water is usually around 8 to 10 percent. It has a soft, rubbery texture and a slightly acrid or bitter taste. In addition, you are purchasing water at meat prices and adding sodium to your diet. I prefer to rely on my own brining or proper cooking techniques to make pork juicy.
All-Natural Pork (raised without antibiotics, hormones or growth stimulants):
Beeler's Pork Products
(712) 546-4402, beelerspurepork.com
Heritage Foods USA
(212) 980-6603, heritagefoodsusa.com
Not breed-specific, but raised on family farms and allowed to wander outside.
(866) 808-0340, nimanranch.com
Prairie Grove Farms
Not breed-specific, but good quality and lean.
(815) 754-0880, prairiegrovefarms.com
Vande Rose Farms
Iowa Duroc Heritage Breed Pork. Also raised on sustainable family farms.
(800) 397-6328, vanderosefarms.com
Organic (raised like all-natural but fed only organic grains and soybeans):
Diamond Organics (888) 674-2642, diamondorganics.com
Organic Valley (888) 444-6455, organicvalley.com