Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
This is a guest post and entry in Round 2 of the Farm Dreams writing contest. The prizes for this round include:
Door #1: A Travel Royal Berkey Walter Purification system from Directive 21. Valued at $228!
Door #2: Two Super Survival Seed packs from Seed for Security. Valued at $150!
Door #3: A 164' roll of electric poultry netting from Kencove. Valued at $140!
Door #4: A 60 serving entree pack of emergency food from MyFoodStorage.com. Valued at $119!
Door #5: A $100 gift certificate from Baker Creek Seeds! Valued at $100.
Round 2 ends began May 7 and ends July 7 so GET BUSY WRITING and email your entry to us today!
Boar taint, or the fear of boar taint, is a concern faced by many farmers who raise pigs for meat. And now, a primer for those who may not be familiar with what boar taint is.
Boar taint is associated with two compounds produced in the live male pig: androstenone and skatole. Androstenone is a steroid produced by the testes and concentrated in the salivary glands where it is converted to a pheromone involved in eliciting sexual behavior in gilts and sows during the mating process. Gilts and sows are both female pigs. Androstenone is also deposited in the fat tissue and can be released in response to heat during cooking thus contributing to boar taint. Skatole is a compound produced by bacteria in the hindgut of the boar. It is absorbed across the intestinal wall into the blood stream, is metabolized by the liver and may be excreted or absorbed into fat tissue where it may cause boar taint (Squires, 1999).
I underlined the word "may" in the last sentence, since the obvious conclusion is that it also "may not" cause boar taint. The controversy surrounding castration is one of humane treatment. In North American swine production, castration is essentially universal, although in the UK and Ireland, for welfare reasons pigs are not castrated. Additionally, legislation passed in Norway and Switzerland that banned castration of pigs starting in 2009. The majority of male pigs in Spain and Portugal are not castrated. McDonald’s & Burger King in the Netherlands both announced that they will no longer sell products containing pork from castrated pigs. According to The Pig Site, "There is substantial evidence that castration is painful and highly aversive to pigs and so is a significant welfare concern. The most painful part of castration appears to be the severing of the cords and vessels supplying testis. An assumption is often made that the procedure is less traumatic to younger piglets although the contrary maybe true."
Our processor was shocked when we brought our first male pigs in, which were all intact. He claimed that we would have boar taint and he could already smell it. I know the smell he's referring to, as I get a sense of that when I'm out with our male pigs. You can really detect it if they ever engage in a boar battle, which they do from time to time. Hey, that's what they do in nature. But the bottom line is that we made a decision years ago to not castrate male pigs and to either hope that boar taint wouldn't be an issue, or to adjust our collective taste preferences to accommodate it. After all, when we go hunting for deer or wild boar, do we hope that big buck has been somehow castrated by nature before we pull the trigger? Or do we simply understand that there may be a taste difference between a mature buck and a young doe?
After over four years of harvesting pigs, none castrated, we're convinced that boar taint is not an issue.
Other farmers have discussed the issue of boar taint, with some suggesting that boar taint will not be an issue if the boar is removed from females for at least 30 days. Still others say the secret is to harvest boars younger, say before they reach 9 months or so, and indeed in Europe, it is common to harvest pigs at much lower weights (200 lbs) than we do in America (250-300 lbs).
Our Ossabaw Island pigs take, on average, 15 months to reach market size, and the biggest one we have then is about 225 pounds. These boars are quite mature at that point and engage frequently in "friendly" boar battles and other games, so boar taint should be an issue. But it isn't.
It is true that we raise male pigs in separate paddocks from female pigs, and we believe that contributes to avoiding the perception of taint. Indeed, that's what our processor suggests is the reason, now that he's slowly accepted the fact that boar taint is not an issue. But we have found that this too is not the only reason why we don't have boar taint.
A couple of years ago we had an unfortunate incident where we had to shoot and kill a very mature Ossabaw boar named Bandit. Bandit was our favorite pig on the farm and we had driven to Virginia to get him when he was only a few months old and always maintained a good relationship with him. He would occasionally paw the ground at me and flash his razor sharp tusks, but I always knew what he meant. Still, I was able to rub his head every time. We kept Bandit in his own paddock and brought sows to him when we wanted them bred.
We had an incident where Bandit bit one of our apprentices. Bandit was not properly handled, as the apprentice used a bag of food as his shield between he and Bandit as he walked. Bandit didn't mean to "bite" him; rather, Bandit just swiped his head at the bag and hit leg as well. But a couple of days after this, Bandit broke out of his paddock, something he has never been inclined to do. He headed across the farm to where the young gilts are and, as we tried to catch him, entered their paddock. This left me with a difficult decision as night was falling. We weren't going to be able to separate him at that time of day among 30 young gilts, and Bandit was becoming, understandably, very aggressive. He had already begun mounting the young gilts, so I grabbed my 30.06, fired, and dropped Bandit. It was a sad evening for all of us, but let's stay focused on the topic of boar taint.
We took bandit to a local processor since we couldn't sell this meat. We just processed Bandit for ourselves. Bandit was obviously in a stressed and sexually active stage when he was killed. So we were anxious to try the pork and I fully expected to detect boar taint.
I was wrong. There was none. The bottom line is that we have yet to detect boar taint on our Ossabaw pigs. We have done nothing magical to "breed it out". It just isn't there. As I said we do raise males from females separately, but I'm not convinced that is the reason. We have harvested male pigs as young as 7 months and as old as 2 years. Still no boar taint.
Many farmers prefer to castrate and that is their choice. The purpose of this article is to share with you that there may be another way. We've made that other choice and we're happy we did.
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