Pork scratchings. Pork. Scratchings. Take a moment to stop and think about that phrase. Do you really want to put something called a "pork scratching" in your mouth? Like, a pig scratching itself?
Well actually, yes, turns out a lot of us do. The fried pork snack is thought to have been invented by waste-savvy working class communities in the West Midlands during the 1800s, and has been a British pub staple (right next to the squashed KP Original Salted Peanuts) for decades. Similar in taste to American pork rind, 20 million packets of pork scratchings are sold in the UK each year, and the snack has been subject to gourmet reimaginings from Michelin-starred chefs including Richard Davies.
Like all fried and salt-smothered meat snacks, pork scratchings are delicious—questionable name or not. What they probably aren't though, is a health food, if only for the fact that they are so often washed down with a pint of lager.
That was until last week, when fitness food company Muscle Food—who have already ruffled vegetarian feathers with sales of zebra steaks and the unflinchingly literally named "Bag of Horse"—unveiled what it claims to be the world's first high protein pork scratching.
Made from chunks of pork rind and sprinkles of salt, the snack contains 70 percent protein and almost half as much fat as a traditional pork scratching. Olympic taekwondo gold medallist Jade Jones apparently loves them and the company is also hawking jalapeño and "Spicy BBQ" varieties.
"Basically it's a popular British snack which people view as unhealthy and fattening. We decided to bring it back reinvented," explains Muscle Food's James Whiting. "This is still tasty and much healthier."
According to meat industry website meatinfo.co.uk, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that pork scratchings can be good for you, due to the majority of the snack's fat being mono and polyunsaturated. St George Hospital's chief dietician Cath Collins told the site that "because what you're eating is effectively concentrated collagen from skin, it has an amazingly high protein content to keep you feeling full, and benefits muscle and bone health."
It's not the first time a seemingly unhealthy food has been relaunched with a surprising "health" angle. If we're not drinking poison control medicine in the hope that it will detox our insides, we're justifying last night's greasy chips by telling ourselves it'll replenish the ol' glycogen count. Clinging onto the latest "New studies show..." health article or hoping in vain that scientists will one day invent a calorie-free McFlurry (who needs a cure for cancer?) is so much easier than doing the whole eating-in-moderation thing.
It's like your mum used to say: a little bit of what you fancy. And if what you fancy is concentrated collagen pig skin—added protein or not—then go for it.