quality notes

Boar taint - the unpleasant odour and flavour of cooked pork and bacon coming from the meat of some entire male pigs is still a hot research topic. Producers prefer to rear boars rather than castrating them because boars grow faster and eat less feed.

However, the possibility that some meat will be tainted and cause consumers to reject pork, has resulted in a ban on boar carcasses in some countries. A major new development is the vaccine Improvac from Pfizer which has been licenced for use in most countries including the EU.

This vaccine inhibits testosterone production in the testis so the taint compound androstenone, which is formed along with testosterone, is reduced to levels found in castrates. The lower androstenone concentrations cause skatole, the other boar taint compound, to also be reduced because androstenone naturally blocks skatole breakdown in the liver.

The vaccine must be given twice at the right times so there are logistical as well as cost issues. An added benefit is that it reduces aggression so carcass bruising is reduced. There is also a slight increase in fat thickness as boars take on castrates' status.

Another possible approach is to include chicory, an indigestible fibre source, in the finisher feed. A recent project showed that 9% dried chicory in the diet fed for two weeks before slaughter reduced skatole levels to those found in castrates.

However, reducing skatole did not have the effect of reducing androstenone, so concentrations remained high. Skatole is the most potent of the two boar taint compounds and in other work, reducing skatole alone has significantly improved pork odour and flavour. Unfortunately this was not the result found in this trial. Research does not always produce the results you want.

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