There’s no denying that the hamburger is an American food staple. The same goes for pretty much any preparation of chicken. But in the pecking order of mealtime proteins, one kind of meat reigns supreme: Enter the pig, a majestic creature whose magical existence has been celebrated on March 1st since 1972, when National Pig Day was first commemorated.
Surprised that a farm animal has its own holiday? Well, you shouldn’t be. No other animal, after all, can claim to be the most widely consumed meat on the planet. Though it has for years faced stiff competition from poultry, pork holds that distinction, accounting for a whopping 36% of the world’s total meat consumption, according to United Nations estimates.
There is little competition, moreover, when it comes to fictional animal celebrities. From “Babe” to Wilbur of “Charlotte’s Web,” pigs have long enjoyed a prominent place in the cultural zeitgeist, one that cows and chickens could only dream of (and have likely long envied).
This year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that global pork exports will rise 4% to 7.2 million tons. Domestic pork production is also expected to increase, with output climbing 5% to a record 10.9 million tons. U.S. suppliers, meanwhile, will likely benefit from strong demand from international markets—especially Mexico and China—with forecasts calling for a 3% bump in pork exports.
What does pork mean for the U.S. economy as a whole? A lot, it turns out. Thanks in large part to a precipitous jump in pork consumption—U.S. exports of pork and pork products have skyrocketed 1,550% in value since 1989—the domestic pork industry is responsible for employing some 550,000 workers, according to the National Pork Producers Council. What’s more, 110,000 of those jobs result directly from exports, according to the group. All told, pigs have a pretty substantial impact on the American economy.
So, with National Pig Day just around the corner, now is as good a time as ever to consider feting—or at the very least honoring—the mighty pig. They create jobs, are among the smartest of all animals, and some would argue even make adorable pets.
All hail the pig.