Monday, September 13, 2010

Eating a boar

Click on the picture for a bigger version
I culled a boar on my farm a month or so ago, and ran him through the farm kill system that my customers meat goes through. (Farm kill, dressed at farm, cut and wrap & smoke at meat shop). I do this from time to time to do a quality control check on the whole system, and in this case to see what the boar tasted like.

One advantage of farm kills to the farmer is that I get to double check my husbandry.  Amount of fat, condition of internal organs, overall health of the animal and so on.  In the picture above I'm watching Al Stevens cut open a bit of the sows uterus so that I can see the condition and verify that she was not pregnant.  I do this from time to time to check the accuracy of my pregtone pregnancy checker, and it's proven accurate so far.  (Big help when you're culling sows for not breeding, btw)

Castrating male pigs is a common practice for Americans, and it retards both their growth rate and progress, so if you can not castrate various studies have shown you'll get more efficient conversion of feed to meat.

The boar I culled weighed 700lbs, and was sexually active. In fact, it was mating a sow about an hour before it was killed, and was kept in a pasture with several other boars. So if there were any sexual activity linked issues, I'd expect this boar to have them. I did this intentionally to make sure that I had a good chance of experiencing boar taint if it was present.

 I had 5 people smell the meat as it cooked, and taste each of the following meats after cooking. I asked them how the taste was, whether there was a difference in texture, how the fat tasted separate from the meat, and any other impressions they had.

Here's the rundown:

The sausage is fine, in all of its (3) iterations. Spicy, sweet Italian, breakfast. It smells fine when cooking, tastes fine. No issues.

The bacon, to four of the five people tasting, had no discernible difference. I smelled a small amount of gaminess to it. Similar to the difference in taste between wild boar meat and domestic pork. On a scale of 1-10 I'd rate the gaminess to be a 2 or 3. Venison I'd rate a 4 or 5, beef I'd rate a 1, lamb a 3 to 4, to give you a comparison.

I'll try the ham and pork chops tomorrow, but given that bacon a high percentage of fat, and that the bacon was fine, I'd expect the rest of the meat to be fine. 

Summary:  This animal was fine, and my family and I will be eating him for a while.  If I run into any other issues I'll update this post.   he dressed out to something like 400lbs of meat.  The pork chops are huge.  The hams are gigantic.


StefRobrts said...

Thanks for posting this. I had wondered about why males needed to be castrated (according to what I'd read). My research had been unable to tell if it was because the meat would be unsafe to eat, or what. Glad to hear the 'boar taint' didn't ruin your meat.

Robin said...

How interesting! I had heard before that male pigs that weren't fixed and full grown weren't good for normal eating due to the bad taste. What a cool taste test.

Bruce King said...

The issue with boars is that some percentage of them really do smell or taste bad to some percentage of people. Boar taint shows up when you're cooking the meat, the fat in particular. I can't say what percentage has boar taint, or what percentage of the population can smell it, but it is a real factor when you're selling retail. you don't want your product to be deficient in any way.

The taint seems to be inherited, and one thing that I've wanted to know is whether its present in my herd. I would say that this boar was acceptable to me so whatever taint it might have is tolerable.

I've castrated the vast majority of the pigs I've sold as either meat or as weaner pigs that people raise themselves. People who buy weaner pigs demand castrated pigs, and the price for intact males at auction is often just 10% of what a female of the same condition will sell for. So the market is demanding castrated pigs, too.

The conventional wisdom is that boars, intact or not, can be used in sausage or other processed food (salami, hot dogs, etc) and that the taint won't be detectable after that processing -- that's my experience here. the sausage is sufficiently spiced that I can't detect any difference, but I can detect a little bit of difference in the bacon. If I wanted to be safe I'd go straight to sausage for the whole animal, but that's a LOT of sausage.

The boar taint is a smell issue primarily. The taste is ok in tainted animals, and they're fine to eat. It's not a health or nutrition issue for consumption.

Now would i rather not castrate? Absolutely.

StefRobrts said...

So do they have to be castrated before maturity to be certain not to have the boar taint?

Walter Jeffries said...

This is similar to our test results. We tested gradually older and older boars up to 30 months of age with no taint. We've now been not castrating for years and selling the piglets and pork to thousands of people. No taint. It is nice not to be castrating, for both the pig and the farmer.

On the sausage, we do a lot of hot Italian and sweet Italian sausage every week plus 300 lb batches of hot dogs and kielbasa both fresh & smoked monthly or so. They sell out almost instantly, sometimes before they're even back in our hands. Demand is very high. Do reach that market.

When offered an olive branch, accept it up and treasure it.

Anonymous said...

Did the boar smell bad alive?

My boars are uniformly stinky. They smell like shit, even when they are clean. I would presume their meat has taint - but I've never tried eating one.

I just castrate them and wait a few months.

Emily said...

My friend just took a boar born last spring in to have it butchered. They said it had boar taint and they had to set it aside. She couldn't get the meat back and they had to throw it away. When she called the guy she bought the piglets from to tell him what hapenned, he had another inspector taste the meat and he said it was fine. But there was no way to get the meat back and it all went to waste. I can't understand what the danger is to human health and why it is illegal to let the meat go back to the owner for processing.

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Hi Bruce, thank you for the informative post. My husband and I raised our first pig and recently had it processed by mobile slaughter. The fellows who did the work were great, but they were very annoyed that I did not castrate our pig. I wasn't worried because the pig was only six months old, but after they left I had plenty of anxiety thinking of the waste. However, before they left I asked them to save me the leaf lard, and they gave it to me before taking the pig to their plant. I rendered it and did not smell anything funny... it just smelled like pork.

I have noticed many times that meat purchased from the store tastes way off to me. I have a very sensitive palate. I wonder if what I am tasting is boars that have been culled that happen to have the taint gene. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

i just dont understand why they would keep your meat i mean it taint theirs no all kidding aside i have a boar im having processed and yes its a duroc but it doesnt smell bad except for its crap in its pen take it out of pen cant smell it and its not castrated but im going to play it safe tenderloin ok no fat there chops not much fat there hams and bacon having it smoked so shouldnt be problem with it rest of fat and other cuts making extra spicy sausage out of it so i believe there taint going to be any problems if it does smell bad while cooking ill just bbq the rest outside lol i was very interested in uncut pigs growing faster than cut ones didnt know that as im new to this pig raising so theres no way im cutting my piglets that are arriving in may

Carlos Afonso said...

Maybe it be the kind of a bread you have and i wish i with have had the same experience as you, but unfortunately was not my case. Last year i slaughter 2 boars about 13 months old, mines they are raised in a open field together with females and little ones and they are a cross of Iberian and wild boar, the meat in fact smell and tasted tainted.
For this year don't take the risk.

Unknown said...

We butchered a boar about a month ago. It was a GOS 16 months old and hung 225 lbs. He had been running with some sows for 8 months and had not bred any of them. We cooked some bacon in the house and the house smelled for several hours. The taint could be tasted in some parts of the bacon. Last night I cooked some pork chops on the grill. The smell was strong down wind of the grill and the taint could be tasted somewhat in the chops. Tonight, when I was warming up the grill, the taint smell was strong. I cooked 2 lbs of bacon on the grill on perforated aluminum foil. The smell was very strong down wind. The taste was not very strong. My son said all was good except for the last piece that he had. It has been many years since I have experienced boar taint, but after being re-acquainted with it, I did notice a very slight smell from some commercial (thing most popular brand) brats that I cooked several days ago.

Bruce King said...

if you can smell it you can find boar taint in all sorts of pork products; usually it's pretty faint, or covered up by spices, but it can be strong. I walked into a charity pancake breakfast and was overwhelmed by the smell one day; I was one of the few who could smell it.

You can always make chorizo!