The Legendary Ham

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National Pork Board director of market intelligence Patrick Fleming joins us for this edition of Pork Pod. Ham is at the center of the holiday table, but is also popular throughout the year. Don’t miss the interesting statistics in this update


Don Wick


Patrick Fleming, Director Market Intelligence, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:03 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines, Iowa this is Pork Pod! Pork Pod, I’ll look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion and consumer information projects. This is Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff and today our guest is Patrick Fleming, the National Pork Board director of market intelligence and of course the Easter holiday ahead of us and that holiday certainly means Ham.

Patrick Fleming: 00:38 Yes, I mean Easter is the first of the big ham holidays. I mean for us its Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. But we’re really excited, the pork industry is, you know, between um, Easter and Thanksgiving, everyday use of ham is the number three reason that people look to buy him and what to eat. And so while Easter always brings us back because it’s the center of the plate, is the reason why people really like Easter, cause nothing provides flavor like pork, ham is becoming more popular year round.

Don Wick: 01:00 Tell me how it’s being utilized.

Patrick Fleming: 01:02 While we’ve seen a lot of innovation in ham over the last couple of years, I mean the big bone in spiral that really impressed on the holiday table is still obviously the anchor for Easter. And it will be for Christmas and Thanksgiving, but a lot of our packer partners have done a really good job of making that ham smaller and more user friendly. So boneless whole muscle portions that range in size from a pound or more, you know, up to two or three pounds. So hands that can fit a small family for dinner one night and a couple of sandwiches the next day. Easy to prepare, fully cooked, which is kind of nice from the convenience perspective. So I have to do is heat it up or you can eat straight out of the package. And so the smaller assortment of sizes. And then you add on that on top of the expansion of flavors, um, you know, from bacon crusted to the brown sugar to the honey to all the different flavors that are on top of the ham, it provides a lot of different flavor options and the sizes make it convenient for not just the big holiday meal, but also for that Tuesday night dinner.

Don Wick: 02:08 So has the Pork Checkoff really helping that whole effort, whether it’s been in working with the retailers and such on the, on the size part of this as well as adding these new flavors.

Patrick Fleming: 02:18 Oh, exactly. Because we did research a couple years ago that really started a lot of this off. I mean some of the things we’re trying to communicate to people is that you ham is, you know, we always think of the ham season kind of ending with Easter and really when you think about the ham season really just begins with Easter. A fully cooked, smaller portion have, um, where you don’t have to heat up the whole house because you don’t have to, you know, fully cook. And Oh, a meat that kid is really the meat of summer. It provides the opportunity if you have a ham in the fridge, it’s the perfect breakfast meat of course, complementary to bacon. It’s also the perfect lunch meat. Sliced for sandwiches. I mean, who love a ham sandwich and of course for dinner because it is fully cooked or you can warm it up in the microwave or on the grill, you know, the smaller portions provide that flexibility that really does make it that convenient food coming into the summer season. So you know, that love of flavor, that Easter kicks off and everybody goes back to can be enjoyed, you know, all the way until Thanksgiving. Um, and you don’t have to buy, you know, the, the big ham that will, that will feed, you know, eight or nine that you’re going to have come over for Easter. You can buy the right sized ham. So the Pork Board has done and Checkoff has done a lot of work talking about the right size ham, flavors that consumers, um, preferences today and that keep ham fresh is a product and of course the convenience is always a major factor with consumers nowadays.

Don Wick: 03:47 Tell me about the analytics really to follow that usage that you’ve seen more year round.

Patrick Fleming: 03:53 Well, our research was really surprising because we find out that 20 percent of consumers actually cook it on the grill or 23 percent barbecue and how they differentiate them, I’m not sure. But there’s a completely outdoor summer occasions, crock-pot is also big at 26 percent so things that don’t heat up the house and microwave is obviously low at 10 percent, but what a lot of consumers and what we’re still trying to do for a lot of consumers is plan a ham, a lot of hams and most of the portion hams are fully cooked and ready to eat out of the package, which, you know, when your time stress does a consumer, especially on a weeknight meal that fully cooked and all you have to do is warm it up. Um, and, and even for some of our larger hams bone in spirals, you know, most of them are fully cooked nowadays. So you, you know, heating them up is not the process that grandma went through where it took all day. You’re just trying to bring them up to temp, just trying to melt the glaze. You’re just trying to, you know, warm them up. It’s not, it’s not that cumbersome time consuming thing it used to be. I mean, spiral cutting, has made serving them a lot easier obviously, but also, you know, that fully cooked component is something we just always want to make sure we go back and reinforce with consumers that ham is a lot convenient and lot easier than it used to be. And it’s not grandma’s ham anymore. It’s not an all day cooking process like the ready to cook hams used to be. We have a much wider variety, and most of our hams are fully cooked.

Don Wick: 05:22 Are the recipes available if folks want to do something a little more creative?

Patrick Fleming: 05:24 Oh yes. I mean we have recipes on um, and um, and in some of our larger packers obviously during this time of the year have recipes on pack also. So your favorite ham, whatever brand that is, you know, go out and they also have websites available for each one of our packers that have new and creative ways or ways of adding flavor, different flavors to it too. And also then what do you do with the leftovers? The day after is always a sandwich, but when you get a day or two afterwards, you might want a new way of preparing that ham and so there’s some options on what to do with the leftovers also.

Don Wick: 06:04 Patrick Fleming from the National Pork Board, thanks to you for listening to this addition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit