Agree. It is even more unnerving for me, being native polish speaker, but learning italian from english, since there is no italian course for polish speaker. We in polish don't have the "the, a, an, la le, il" stuff, so sometimes it makes no sense, when I have to translate "il pollo" but don't have THE button, and sometimes I am being rated WRONG for not using the "the" word. I suspect i could get by by not using them except when they are really necessary.
It can be a bit hard to explain, but I'll try. When speaking about eating, you can say "maiale", since noone will actually imagine you eating a live pig. Altough "io mangio la carne di maiale" wouldn't be wrong, it says the same thing as "io mangio il maiale". "carne di maiale" may be useful when speaking about the pig's meat itself, outside of an "eating context". Like, on casual conversation, "pig's meat has a lot of blood". If you just say "maiale", you're saying pigs have a lot of blood (which is true, but not the point). If you say "carne di maiale", it's clear as day that you're speaking about the pig's meat.