CHICAGO – Major US restaurants are expanding their protein selection on menus by offering more pork dishes, according to Technomic. Pork experienced a 7 percent increase in menu mentions during the past year, and now is being showcased in appetizers, entrées and side dishes.

These latest findings are part of Technomic's ongoing examination of menu additions to leading independent and chain restaurant menus. Such information is collected quarterly and is available on Technomic's searchable online MenuMonitor database.

"Restaurants are using pork more often in main dishes and as an accompanying ingredient in menu items for various reasons," said Bernadette Noone, director, Technomic MenuMonitor. "First, the higher cost of beef has made pork a nice substitute in combo dishes. Where customers were once seeing chicken and beef on the menu, they may now see more affordable chicken and pork dishes. The popularity of bacon is another key factor. For the last few years we've seen bacon-related menu items increase by over 7 percent annually."

According to Technomic, bacon, sausage and ham are the most common pork ingredients on menus. The data also show pork is being used more in combination with other proteins. During the second quarter of 2011, pork experienced a 15 percent increase in shellfish dishes, 13 percent in chicken dishes and 8 percent in both beef dishes and burger dishes. The pork trend crosses mealparts, with many types of pork being featured in new dishes.

New pork items include: BBQ Spare Ribs & Pork Roast at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue; Country Style Pork Cutlet at Max & Erma's; Mojo Roast Pork at Pollo Tropical; Red Beans & Rice with Andouille sausage at Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar; Wood Grilled Chorizo Sliders at Bahama Breeze; and Memphis BBQ Skins with pulled pork at Chili's Grill & Bar.