The fascinating history of the Iowa Chop
In my family, it’s always a special night when we cook Iowa Chops for dinner. My husband likes to roast the thick-cut, bone-in Iowa Chops in a cast-iron skillet, although many people prefer them on a grill. The pork turns out tender and juicy every time.
What is the Iowa Chop? The Iowa Chop is a center-cut loin that’s over 1 inch thick, known for its quality, tenderness and versatility.
The name “Iowa Chop” isn’t as common outside of the state. Instead, they are often called Porterhouse chops - a nod to the Porterhouse beef steak.
I’ve learned that the Iowa Chop boasts a fascinating history. Surprisingly, it’s also an important piece of women’s history in Iowa.
Iowa pork farmers first coined the name “Iowa Chop” in 1976. The Iowa Porkettes, a former statewide organization for farm woman, launched a major statewide marketing campaign in the mid ‘70s to promote the Iowa Chop, according to University of Illinois ag historian Jenny Barker Devine.
Back then, most farm women couldn’t get involved in the business or leadership side of raising pork (unless their husbands approved). However, farm women still wanted to support their farms and their livelihoods.
The Iowa Porkettes joined together with a goal of promoting pork as a high-quality, nutritious protein to urban consumers.
The women volunteered (without compensation) to visit grocery stores and give out pork samples and recipe ideas. They met with butchers and restaurant owners (who were, most often, men) to request adding the Iowa Chop to their menus.
The Washington County Porkettes even came up with a catchy slogan for newspaper and radio ads, “Hop on the top with the Iowa Chop.”
By the end of 1977, more than 160 Iowa restaurants featured Iowa Chops on the menu. Meat counters across the state reported increased customer demand for Iowa Chops. In addition, the Iowa Chop was included on the U.S. House of Representatives’ menu in Washington.
Now 50 years later, we can still see that the Iowa Porkettes’ voluntary efforts paid off. We can order Iowa Chops at the meat counter or on a restaurant menu, or try an Iowa Chop recipe from a social media influencer.
Next time you serve Iowa Chops to impress your guests, use this little bit of trivia as a conversation starter.
Let’s all be ambassadors for Iowa farmers, who work every day to raise high-quality, nutritious pork while providing the best possible care for their animals and the environment.
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