Food & Drink

‘Taylor Ham’ or ‘Pork Roll’? New Jerseyans Divided on Beloved Meat

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – As New Jerseyans, we may have a lot in common with one another, but there are some issues of utmost importance on which we do not see eye to eye. Perhaps one of the most divisive – or, dare we say, “meatiest” – is whether a certain pork-based meat product should be referred to as “pork roll” or “Taylor Ham.” You can often detect whether someone resides in North or South Jersey just by asking them this question.  Even the President of the United States knows better than to get in the middle of this classic New Jersey debate.

But if one state legislator has his way, the question may soon be resolved. According to a recent NJ.com story, Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-Bergen) wants the Legislature to choose, introducing two different bills naming the state’s “official sandwich,” one for each moniker.

If a December 2015 Rutgers-Eagleton Poll is correct, Eustace is courting real trouble. Statewide, 35 percent of New Jersey residents say they call the beloved meat “Taylor Ham,” while 38 percent insist it is called “pork roll”; 13 percent don’t call the meat by either name, 2 percent use the terms interchangeably and 12 percent are simply not sure what they normally call it. So, as with many other things in this state, the public is evenly split, and the Legislature may want to tread carefully!

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Why? Because regional differences are real: 59 percent of those who reside in North Jersey typically refer to it as Taylor Ham, while 65 percent of South Jerseyans side with calling it “pork roll.”

But what about those living in the perhaps mythical land of “Central Jersey” (which many insist does not exist)? When it comes to processed meat, it appears that Central Jerseyans look more like those in the south than those in the north. Twenty-five percent of self-identified Central Jerseyans call it “Taylor Ham”; 45 percent say “pork roll.”

The number of years one has been a resident of the great Garden State also affects views on the food item. The longer one has lived here, the more likely they are to take a side: almost half of relative newcomers waver on what to definitively call the meat, while about nine in 10 residents who have lived here their entire lives take a stand. “Pork roll” wins among those who have been here up to a decade or two, but the contest becomes much tighter among those who have lived in New Jersey a quarter of a century or more.

Other demographic disparities exist when it comes to what to call the meat, but in the end, whatever the label, we all know there is nothing better or more quintessentially New Jersey than a delicious pork roll – or is it Taylor Ham? – sandwich. And there is no better time to celebrate than this weekend with not one, but twofestivals honoring the state’s beloved food!

Results are from a statewide poll of 843 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish. This release is part of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll’s yearlong celebration of over 200 public opinion polls and 45 years of public opinion polling in the Garden State.

Note: Results are from our celebratory 200th Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in December 2015 and are part of a series of questions that explored some classic Garden State debates. Initial analysis was performed by Carly Frank, Rutgers University-New Brunswick Class of 2017. Frank is a political science major and labor studies minor in the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as an undergraduate associate of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. She is the social media specialist for the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, as well as a research assistant.

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