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Grocery Shopping: Boneless and Bone-In

Both boneless and bone-in offer high quality, nutrient-rich protein. Which will you choose?

Transparency matters: Illinois Farm Families, National Pork Board, and other farmer-led organizations and retailers have been/are clients of mine. This post is my own point of view based on my years in grocery and agriculture, coupled with my training as a dietitian. It’s also about how I was raised: My family values agriculture, health, and nutrition while also honoring a food budget. They go together.

You wheel your cart/buggy up to the meat counter. Even in today’s world, choice is there, although it may look different than it did just a few short months ago.  It might be perplexing to know what to pick. You just need a plan. Simple, right? YES!

Let’s consider what cooks call “edible portion“.  It’s basically the part you eat after you peel/trim/prepare your food. Not everything is a loss that is trimmed. Let’s discuss this from a protein point of view.

We’ve become used to the convenience of boneless. Perfect for the time starved shopper and cook, and/or someone who may still be learning their way around a kitchen. We’ve forgotten that in the quest for “hurry up and get it on the table” that bone in offers a different kind of convenience. Think of it in terms of prepping more meals after your current meal.

homemade soup
Image by Jungyeon Min from Pixabay

Chefs may speak of presentation and additional flavor with bone-in.  From a practicality standpoint, it’s more about the soup/stock or other delicious things that can be made in addition to the obvious meat/poultry.

If it’s a ham bone, you can make a hearty favorite – ham and bean soup. You can make broth-based soup/bone broth from pretty much any meat and poultry bones/trim, which we know is lower in calories and fat than a cream soup. While there has been chatter about additional nutritional implications of using the bones to make broth, there isn’t enough research right now to really get into that. However, the nutrition and value you get by using everything you buy is real. The cooking times don’t vary all that much if you use boneless or bone in, so don’t stress if you have to use a different cut than the recipe calls for.  (Remember to check temperatures and not just go by time or look for best results.)

Your decision checklist:

What cuts are available? Can you swap bone-in for boneless or this cut for that cut? (yes – click here for more details about pork)

What recipes can you make with the amount you have?

Can you freeze some to use in casseroles, soup, salads, sandwiches?

As we head into grilling season, here are a few ideas that will spice things up but keep heat out of the kitchen, along with some year ’round favorites. You can put everything you buy to delicious use. The biggest question is, what will you make first?

Five Surprising Ways to Reinvent your Salad Dressings

Cook’s Illustrated Meat Book – Pork Cuts: A Visual Guide (includes shopping tips)

Chicken Broth Raspberry Vinaigrette

Chicken Stock on the Grill

Pulled Pork Stew (on the grill)

Lentil Soup with Ham (on the grill)

Ham Bone Soup

Ham Stock – Martha Stewart

Roasted Beef Stock

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.