Boar Meat


I do not like castrating piglets at all. Neither does my wife or son like helping. It is not a pleasant task. It is even less pleasant for the piglets. There is a fair bit of research that suggests that castration is not necessary for boars that are slaughtered before age six months. I have written about this before including links to the research articles. Unfortunately it is traditional and customers want it.

Archie, my pig mentor of sorts, has been raising pigs for thirty years. He eats boars. Big boars. Really big boars. 1,062 lb boars. He does not castrate boars that big and with good reason. Use your imagination. Instead, his technique is to put the boar out on pasture away from the females for 30 days. After that there is no boar taint even on a boar that big and three or four years old. He claims this always works. This makes sense with the research I have read from Brazil, Europe and other countries.

One butcher claims that if you castrate the boar immediately after killing it then there is no boar taint. I’m a little dubious of that claim based on the research linked to in the above article. I suspect his boars are fine for the same reason that Archie’s boars are fine. As isolated bachelors they have not been making a lot of the hormones that gives the boar meat a taint in some cases. Or perhaps they simply don’t make enough taint chemicals to be a problem at all.

Some of the research suggests that some breeds of pigs, possibly even simply some lines within breeds, don’t tend to have boar taint. This raises the distinct possibility that one could produce a line of pigs through simple selective breeding that does not have boar taint. I find this very interesting. No genetic engineering necessary with all of its iffy propositions. No patent licensing needed — nobody should be able to patent life anyways. Just good old selective breeding that anyone could do. I speak as an inventor and a breeder.

The reason people want boar (male) piglets cut (castrated) and made into barrows (cut male piglets) is because apparently sometimes with some uncut boars the meat, and especially the fat, can end up with what is called “boar taint” which makes the meat less than appetizing. If you are buying a piglet for $65 and going to invest $150 in food plus $120 in processing costs (slaughter + butcher) and six months of your life raising it then of course you want to be sure the meat is going to be good. You want to make sure you get good food for your $335 and your time. Tradition says to castrate the boys just to be sure.

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I realize you don’t want to risk your summer pig to find out if it works to not castrate. So, I’ve been doing some testing for you. In another year I should have statistically significant results to report. While we wait I’ll tell you about my ongoing research.


What I have been doing is progressively slaughtering older and older boars. Where as Archie keeps his boars away from females for a month I am leaving them in with females (gilts & sows) and boars (each other plus the big boar) and then slaughtering them at one month age intervals. The boar hanging above was slaughtered two weeks ago at six months of age. So far we have had ground sausage with and without spices, ham, bacon, pork chops and fried pork from this boar. All of the meat and the fat are delicious. There is no sign of boar taint in this boar. This is the oldest boar I have tested to date. I was very pleased with the results.

My conclusion is that castration is not necessary. Note that this is not a fully supported scientific conclusion, yet. To make that I need to slaughter about 99 more boars over the age of 6 months before I can say this with full confidence of having some statistical validity. At 9 more boars I will be very confident for my own purposes. You’ll have to pick your own level of comfort for statistical validity.

Hopefully my results will continue to be positive. If so then I want to educate people that castrating is not necessary for boars that are only grown to six or seven months of age. This is supported by the research in Brazil and Europe. Even after I have reached a statistically significant sample size there will still be people who want their little boar piglets cut. This is unfortunate but for now I will continue to do it.

There are reasons not to castrate. Boars who keep their balls grow about 10% faster than barrows and about 20% faster than gilts on average. They have better feed conversion and put on less fat giving more meat than gilts or barrows. The meat is delicious and tender just like with the gilts and barrows. They are also just as gentle and even tempered as the gilts and barrows. There is no real need for putting the piglet through the trauma of castration. The wise pig herder will want to raise boars because they are faster growing and more cost effective.

The last thing I would like to mention is that there are very real risks to castration. It is possible for a boar piglet to have an undetected hernia whereby when it is castrated the little guys small intestines come squirting out the cut. This is a death sentence, probably quite painful and a waste of a good piglet. Infection is another real risk. I have not yet had it happen but if it did it could be bad and possibly kill the piglet. Additionally the cut piglet is traumatized and goes off feed according to research I have read resulting in him dropping back on weight gain for a few days.

All in all, castration is an unpleasant experience for everyone involved and may not be necessary. There are the few male pigs, and even occasional female pigs, who do have boar taint according to some people and I believe them. If we could figure out another, more gentle way to avoid that it would be preferred by all.

Also see the article: To Cut or Not” and the article about testing for taint.

Mud season on the farm is shitty weather – please check your boots.

38°F/21°F, Sunny.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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149 Responses to Boar Meat

  1. keisling says:

    This is for Lynn who was looking from Large Black semen.
    IBS has both fresh and frozen:

    http://www.piggene.com/IBS/ibs_home.htm

    And they are very helpful.

    anthony

    BTW I love this site!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Just sending in info on my boar meat.

    1. Boar age 7 months
    2. Exposed to females? Yes, they were in with two 7 month gilts, a pregnant sow, and a active year old boar
    3. Breed: 1/3 Tamworth X 2/3Berkshire
    4. Observations at slaughter.No smell during slaughter, my killing "guy" was impressed
    5. Observations at butchering. Butcher had no idea that they were intact males. He said no smell
    6. Smell when frying meat Good
    7. Taste of fried meat. Good
    8. Smell when oven roasting Good
    9. Taste of oven roasting Good
    10. Smell when cooking ground meat. Unknown
    11. Taste when cooking ground meat. Unknown
    12. Did you spice the ground meat and if so with what? No
    13. Other observations on cooking? None
    14. Other observations on taste? Very flavourful
    15. Other notes.I am so glad I read this post a year ago before I got into raising heritage free range pork. I was cautious with leaving my guys inact, but now after trying the meat, I would not ever even think of castrating them. There is only room for loss if you castrate your males (infection, hernia)
    I encourage anyone reading this to try it out for yourselves. You will be pleasantly surprised that old farm wives tales, are sometimes just that "Tales"

    Thanks Walter

    J.D.L

  3. Idaho Rob says:

    Walter,
    I have raised pigs off and on my entire young life. 2 years ago I got into it again quite heavily. The boar I’ve used named Boy had done a great job for us and I was ready to try something different. If it wasn’t for your site and this post I don’t know what I would have done with Boy. But because of your research and experiences I decided to try and butcher him myself uncut. He had been sexually active, he was 18 months old and he weighed 700-800 lbs. And he made delicious sausage. My mom who grew up eating wild game said, He tastes WAY better than the moose and elk that my dad used to make us eat. My wife who was worried about eating him likes the meat and so far of the 15 or so people who have tried it, all came back for seconds. Thanks for your information. Everyone told me that Boar taint was the worst thing in the world but I think that it may just be an old wives tale…
    Thank you for your posts. They are great.

  4. Robin Wilson says:

    Walter,

    I am a UK breeder of pigs. We have about 45 sows, mainly Brittish Saddleback and Gloucester Old Spot (traditional UK breeds). We sell most of our stock as 8 week old weaners. We sell 400 a year for the last 10 years. We NEVER castrate, and we have never had customers tell us of boar taint. We fatten mainly boars ourselves, and generraly take them off at 6-8 months and sub 100kg (200lbs).

    However we also use young boars to mate with our sows who are two small for our 800lb boar, and then take these to slaughter. In fact we are currently eating Sidney, who is a british saddleback boar (a sort of lop-eared Hampshire!) who we bred to 5 sows, then found he was not very fertile (litters around 4), so at 16 months took him to the abattoir, he tastes wonderful.

    Does boar taint exist – certainly yes, but should it worry the average small breeder, not in my view.

    Walter – you quoted a Brazilian paper in on of your articles, would love it if you could email a copy !

    Regards

    Robin Wilson
    Oaklands Pigs
    England

  5. Larry says:

    Hi Walter, I just purchased a pair of 2 yr old Hampshires. The plan is to breed them, then slaughter the boar. In separating the boar to avoid “taint” how far apart do they need to be kept?

    • If taint is an issue and separation helps then I would expect the key to be keeping the boar up wind of the sow so he doesn’t smell her. After that sight and sound may have some effect but not as much. Nothing definite there.

  6. Lars Benson says:

    Walter,

    Great insight! Had some follow up questions on this issue. Is there any reliable way to detect boar taint in a living boar? With some animals – billy goats, for example, you can often get a pretty accurate idea of the quality of his meat based on how strong he smells. This brings up another issue…Can boar taint be detected while the carcass is hanging or only after you start cooking the meat/fat?

    One last question. You mentioned that there is a certain percentage of people who cannot even smell boar taint. Not to undermine your studies, but have you confirmed whether or not you and your fam are able to detect the taint? I’m sure you have but wanted to ask.

    Again, great site full of lots of useful information.

    • You could do the definitive test for a live boar: a biopsy. Simply take a tissue sample of back fat and fry it up. They actually have tools for doing this. They’re stainless steel punches that take out a slim tube of tissue, sort of like a giant needle. The boar may objection. Use caution. A squeeze shoot and anesthetic may be advisable. Otherwise you may need it yourself.

      Short of a biopsy, try smelling his breath when he is not all heated up about a lady or another boar.

      In slaughterhouses where they test for it routinely on the line like was discussed in the Brazilian study they talk about using a soldering iron on the fresh carcass. This is just like frying up fat. However if you have a sensitive nose you’ll know even without that if the boar is highly tainted.

      All of this is predicated on your ability to smell taint. Not everyone can smell it so that is a key issue – the tester must be a valid tester. I can smell it. My older son can smell it. My wife can not. We have sold boar meat from our pigs to thousands of people so at this point I am very confident that we have a statistically significant sample set for our herd genetics, feed and management. With any other group of pigs one would want to do testing to get this assurance.

      Do keep in mind that excitation just prior to slaughter, poor slaughter, poor bleed out, improper chilling, miss-handling of the meat all can cause “taint” too. There are signs that distinguish each of these such as the blood spots in hams.

      Merry Christmas!

      -Walter

  7. PPat says:

    Hi Walter,
    I was just linked your site by a friend raising Mulefoot pigs and am so happy to find you!! I will be most happy to share your site with our Mulefoot Association folks via the Yahoo group we all chat on. I am sure lots of them have had the same questions that you have answered so well!! Gail ate her first boar meat last evening and professes the chops to be SUPERB!! She called them Boarkchops.
    I will be MOST pleased never to have to castrate another piggie! (wrangling a 75# boy isn’t my idea of a fun afternoon – I procrastinated a bit tooo long)
    Thanks sooo much for all the good info!

  8. kieran kearns says:

    Hi walter i will be getting five boars back this friday from the butcher i will post the details this day week,keep up the great work.
    kind regards
    kieran kearns

  9. Tammy says:

    1. Boar age? 1 year exactly
    2. Exposed to females or not for last 30 days of life? Exposed and mating
    3. Breed (or breed mix) (description of looks if not known) Tamworth
    4. Observations at slaughter. Everything was fine.
    5. Observations at butchering. Everything was fine.
    6. Smell when frying meat and fat (e.g., a pork chop, bacon, etc). Good
    7. Taste of fried meat. Good
    8. Smell when oven roasting (e.g., pork chop, ham, roast, etc) Good
    9. Taste of oven roasting Good
    10. Smell when cooking ground meat. Good
    11. Taste when cooking ground meat. Good
    12. Did you spice the ground meat and if so with what? No
    13. Other observations on cooking?
    14. Other observations on taste?
    15. Other notes. We butchered the 1 year old boar and 1 1/2 year old sow (Tamworth) at the same time. I wrote on the wrapped packages of pork their names so that we could do taste tests with family members and ourselves. We too were fearful of the “taint”. This was our first time ever raising pigs. However, I am glad to report that there was absolutely no difference. We were pleasantly surprised. We left them run together for 6 months on pasture and feed from the store. We have a two year old boar and I am in the process of deciding what to do with him. Your thoughts and words are guiding me. Thank you.

  10. tigerhorse1 says:

    We raised 3 pigs for meat. 2 were females and 1 was a boar. They were all hampshire crosses and grew beautifully. We butchered the 2 females out at approximately 1 year and the boar at 14 months. The meat from the females was very good and pretty lean. We worried and worried about the boar because of the smell of him when we took him up to the butcher. They told us that we may not even be able to eat the meat. He had a smell to him at the time of butchering they said so we had the whole boar put into sausage with med spice. We aare going to grill some up tonight and are praying for the best. I am very sensitive to smell and hope this meat isnt too bad. This site was a godsend as my butcher was so adamant about how bad this might be to eat! I at least have hope that it may not be so bad! Thanks!! Will let you know.

  11. Walter

    Over the pastmonth I have sent 21 Berkshire pigs for processing. 20 of them were Boars aged from 6months to 18months of age. They ranged in dressed weight from 90kg to 45kg depending on age. The larger ones were used for hams and bacon and the under 60kg for pork. What was noted is the meat was dark and made great hams and bacon (better then the Berkshire /Large Black the butcher had done previously) . The porkers meat was the same and there has been no reports of taint smell or taste. And, the butcher said there was no differnece between the boars and the sow (66kg).

    We free range and keep our herd together as much as possible. We did seperate the boars for varying periods of time from the sows – but this was done to stop them fighting in the trailer. I did send two off which were around the 10month of age mark strait from the mixed herd. With feeding, we give them a mix of grain in the evening and bread in the morning, they get apples and acorns as well this time of year. We don’t feed any meat meals or fish meals to our pigs – no chemicals and no drugs. Worming is done with apple cider vinegar and garlic, they drink fresh clean mountain river water.

    We have only ever once had somebody complain about taint – they home processed the pig themselves and it was the first time, but after asking them to describe what it was they encountered and how they cleaned teh animal I’m pretty sure they either cut the bladder (the taint was only in the rear end ) or it had something to do with the 40litres of apple cider they marinated the pig in for 48 hrs before cooking.

    Cheers

    Martyn

  12. Yes, but farming is farming, much prefer my weather to yours. We are in the sub alpine regoin but only get very light snow maybe once a year. You have visited my blog before at Bredbo Valley View. It’s amazing how we all have to fight the same battles. Keep up the good work!

    Martyn

  13. Patricia says:

    I saw your response there about a sow will mate anything when she’s in the mood. I am curious. Do pigs have sex just for fun, at any time, or do they have to be cycling? I ask because I brought home a smaller sow, probly 150 lbs that appears to be a cross between Hampshire and maybe Guinea hog? She has the Hampshire markings, anyway. She appeared to have had litter(s) before and was docile and healthy, so we took her home for $65. My boar, Stupid Stewie, does anything that sits still long enough, so after a week or two apparently her hormones took over and she sat still long enough. Well it’s only been about three days and her boobies are kind of filling up with milk. This is kind of freaking me out, because from what I read, they don’t start making milk until right before the little piggies come out. So now I’m thinking… was she pregnant already? Is she just a second or third time mother and she just really gets with the milk making program, or what? She isn’t letting Stewie have at it anymore, although he still pesters her half to death. Do pigs ever just get sick of saying “no” and hold still to get it over with??? I had this issue with other female potbellies with him and they never popped out piglets either (and they are no longer with us), so I was just wondering.

    • The females only do it when they’re in heat and at peak heat, they’ll mate anyone they can catch. The males when they’re younger are pretty horny and will hump a rock. As they get a little older they focus their energies on females who are in heat. The older boars know to only bother with females in peak heat – waste of energy and sperm to do otherwise.

      Three days after Stewie’s attention isn’t enough time so if she is filing out it is from a previous mating. I think you have the good fortune to have bought a pregnant sow.

  14. Patricia says:

    That is gonna be SO COOL. I hope to have good news soon, then, and I will not be cutting my boys, so I will have info regarding the boar taint issue. I have 3 people here in town already that want to buy piglets from my mutt, little bitty pigs. Go figure! God truly blessed us at that auction. Thank you for all your very good info and pics. My husband is looking over your winter farrowing shelter very thoroughly, so we will have one of those as well. Your website is AWESOME.

  15. Tera Elliott says:

    Would love to hear of your conclusions on boar meat research. Have a few too many boars and have never ate boar meat (to my knowledge) and am curious??

    • The conclusion is we ceased castrating years ago. We take intact boars to market weekly year round and they’ve lived their lives with females out on pasture – no separation. We have no problem with boar taint and we have thousands of customers who buy the meat. It is delicious. The intact boars grow faster, larger and put on more muscle than barrows and females. Studies show that they are more efficient at converting feed into muscle. I’m incline to believe that because as a general rule the boars are significantly bigger than the sows and gilts of the same age.

      • Eugene Gocke says:

        when butchering a 6-7 month old boar are there any specific procedures that you follow? Do you do anything different than if you were butchering a barrow? I have one that slipped by at castrating time and have been debating what to do with him.

        • Same as a barrow or gilt. Nothing special. But that is because we know our pigs are taint free. With an unknown pig line there is the concern of taint in a boar. Taint is caused by a combination of genetics, feed (high fiber helps prevent taint) and management (clean stalls or better yet pasturing help prevent taint). If I was going to slaughter a boar that I did not know the odds on I would do a biopsy as described in this article.

  16. Tim says:

    Interesting articles. I’ve always been told that you have to castrate the boars. Any experience/knoweledge with wild boars? I have one that I trapped and raised since he was just a wee little fella. Now he is probably 500lbs. He’s well over due for the freezer. I’m worried about the “boar taint”. Any suggestions?

    • No, castration is not necessary with most pigs. Read about boar taint in those linked articles. Some lines of pigs do have taint, even in females, so one would want to test their pigs just as we did with ours to find out for sure. I have no experience with wild pigs. You could do a biopsy.

  17. Patricia says:

    Well we butchered Stewie, our mean potbelly pig boar. He was maybe 135-150 lbs. We actually got a lot of meat out of him, more than I expected vs. fat. I found out on their shoulder there is this thing, I can only describe as a “plate”. It’s a hard layer of fat that you can knock on with your knuckles and it sounds like knocking on wood. That was really interesting to find. So, in interest of the boar taint issue, I cut n pasted the questions above:

    1. Boar age? About 4 years old.
    2. Exposed to females or not for last 30 days of life? He ran in with all the females and then was penned right next to them.
    3. Breed (or breed mix) (description of looks if not known) Black potbelly pig that more resembled one of those wild pigs from down south. His backbone hairs were REALLY long and he was stockier in the legs than the “pet” potbelly pigs, but had the round, hanging belly of a potbelly and short, stubby nose.
    4. Observations at slaughter- A 22 doesn’t even phase a little pig, even at pointblank range. Scary as hell. A shotgun, however, drops him fast. Sad, I was hoping to be as humane as possible.
    5. Observations at butchering-He had less fat, because I didn’t feed him a lot of junk or even pig feed. Mostly just grass in the field, hay, and fruit from the fruit stand here. On Google searches alot of people said that potbellies are high in fat and don’t have much meat, but we got two big hams out of him, leaner, not like storebought, but when you realize I expected to get just a little bit of meat and a whole lot of fat for soap… I was pleasantly surprised. We got overall about… 75 lbs. of meat out of him. It was nicely marbled and he had about a half inch layer of fat on his hide all over.
    6. Smell when frying meat and fat (e.g., a pork chop, bacon, etc). He smelled pretty good when frying the meat, like unsalted pork. It didn’t stink up the house, and it smelled like good dinner cooking.
    7. Taste of fried meat. It was good fried. Hubby made up some fried and he also put some ground up for spaghetti sauce and we both noticed a rather sweet flavor to the meat. We had been feeding that pig a LOT of peaches, so maybe that was it?
    8. Smell when oven roasting (e.g., pork chop, ham, roast, etc) (We haven’t roasted him yet, as hubby wants to smoke the hams. Not sure if this is a good choice, considering the pig was 4 years old, but…
    9. Taste of oven roasting (Haven’t done oven roasting yet either.
    10. Smell when cooking ground meat. (Very, very good. Like the smell that makes you come in from outside when there’s good dinner cooking.
    11. Taste when cooking ground meat. (The ground meat was really good. Hubby said he detected a “gamy” or “boar taint” odor, but I just didn’t smell it or taste it. He is very picky about his food, and smells, though. When we had some of our goat meat, I was grossed out by the “goaty” smell and taste. Didn’t detect any “piggy” smell or taste with this meat.
    12. Did you spice the ground meat and if so with what? Hubby put some kind of poultry seasoning in there, some rosemary, and some lemon and citrus. Not a lot.
    13. Other observations on cooking? It had enough fat in it to cook without fat added, and it didn’t smoke up the house, and it was smell goodin’ and tasty!
    14. Other observations on taste? Yummy! And no salt, which is AWESOME for my diet.
    15. Other notes. Hubby seemed to have gotten past the “old boar” tough meat issue by grinding the meat.

  18. Patricia says:

    Here’s an update, perhaps? I may have discovered “boar taint”? Is it an odor AND a taste, or just an odor? Hubby took two hams and made a smoker, put them in it today. The smoker was a bit hot, however and we had some of the smaller pieces he put in there get barbecued. No problem, it made a nice snack, right? Some of the pieces had a chunk of a half inch of fat on them on an edge, most were nicely marbled chunks of meat. I have pics of it on my Facebook, it looks like GOOD barbecue. There’s only one problem. I’m eating the meat and it tastes good, but it has this acrid, kind of “stinky sock” type of aftertaste. I don’t think it’s the smoke, because I LOVE smoke flavors and ask hubby to make smoked barbecue meat all the time, fire roasted tomatoes, you name it. It just reminds me of those really expensive gourmet cheeses that are about $20 per lb and then you bite into them and it tastes like something you left in the corner of your gym locker for about 8 months and it has now grown up and pulled a switchblade on one of the local rat population… I’m wondering if that’s boar taint. Very sad, if so. Stewie will have to be sausage after all. I apologize for my ignorance. We are new to farming.

    • It doesn’t sound like (smell like) boar taint since with boar taint it comes out with any cooking, not just BBQ. Very curious. Some tests:

      1) BBQ a lean piece with all the fat trimmed off since boar taint is stored in the fat.

      2) BBQ without the smoker and see how that is.

      Let us know how those come out.

  19. whittles says:

    Well, not knowing about boar taint was an eye opener this morning when my hired slaughterer showed up. I quickly jumped on the web to do some research. I had 3 boars and 1 gillet. The past 3 weeks though the boars were all over her and each other. I picked the piglets up in mid june and they went to the butcher today. I am so nervous about the meat having the boar taint to it. I have 3 of the pigs sold to friends and keep one for myself. The guy who came to my house today said to keep the gillet for myself but I don’t want to sell tainted meat to my friends. any advice would be helpful.

    • Most boars don’t have taint. Some boars in some lines of some breeds do have taint. Feed and management (e.g., pen vs pasture) make a difference too.

      Fry up a piece of the pack fat and smell it. Note that not all people can smell the taint so it isn’t an issue for everyone. Those who can will smell a light to strong ‘urine’ type smell if it is there.

      If your boars have taint then see if the taint is in the meat as opposed to the fat. Traditionally the meat of tainted boars was mixed with the fat of cattle, sows or barrows and used in sausage and pepperoni. The taint is primarily in fat so there is less in the actual meat. The spices probably help too.

      Good luck!

  20. whittles says:

    does the increase in sexual activity provide any insight as to whether or not tere would be taint?

    • In the small minority boars that do have taint the scientific research has shown that it shows up after about six months when they are reaching sexual maturity. However, sexual activity shows up much younger than that and is present in boars that don’t have taint too so it is hard to use that as an indicator.

  21. Jon Novak says:

    I have a male that I am breading with my female and plan to slaughter after she gets pregnant. If I separate Him from the female for 30 days or so is 1000 feet away far enough? I have 12 acres ant that is about the best i can do>

  22. Chanlace Enderbine says:

    Thanks for all the research you have done on boar taint. We’ve now slaughtered a years worth of boars doing the progressive age thing you suggest and our pigs don’t have the taint either. I’m glad not to have to be nutting them any more.

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  24. daz says:

    Ive raised 2 boars to 300 lbs and had them butchered and the meat was almost inedible! I had no sows nor are there any near me. One was black the other red. So all that about pasture and no females is incorrect in my experience. I had them on a 1/2 acre, free range. Not only did it smell bad when cooking(you didnt want to be in the house), but it tasted very bad. we had to use it in ways that smothered the flavor, we suffered through it!

    • Sounds like you had a genetic line that has boar taint. Research has shown that they exist, but are a small minority. I would cull them, which you did, and work on developing taint free genetics. It’s wonderful not having to do castration.

  25. douglas says:

    You folks have put up an outstanding website and the comments are great

    I very much like your quasi scientific examination of boar taint.

    In my experience with sheep (tame and bighorns) and horses, OLD fat is where the problem lies. If they are skinnied down to lose that old fat and then fattened up again they are fine. An old broken mouthed ewe handled this way tastes like lamb, tougher though. Old horse can be great, or dogfood, depending on their fattening history. an old bull moose tastes just fine in august as i remember it.

    This may (or not) have bearing on boar taint.

    thanks

    (___)
    {o,o}
    /)__)
    -“-“———-dougles

  26. Sabrina says:

    I’m curious as to the age of the latest boars you’ve slaughtered are. The original blog was posted in 2006 and I’m wondering how your research has come along in the last 5 yrs? I’ve just recently taken my PBP boar in for slaughter but we did not raise him a piglet so not sure how he will taste.

    Great info on your site!

  27. Tanith says:

    I buy for my own table, by preference, retired heritage boar breeders. I prefer Berkshires. What most people call “taint” I call “delicious white truffle aroma”, and I don’t very much like pork that does not have any.

    All of what I will buy must be free ranged, not penned, and must have been eating grass and acorns. I like them 450 lbs at a minimum and much bigger is even better. I have not specified that they be kept away from females, and I doubt any of them were. In fact I know most were not, the ones I picked up or visited on their farms.

    I do my own butchering and cooking. The meat smells incredible when cooking, it perfumes the house with delicious, and I especially like the fat bits as most of the white truffle/musk flavor is concentrated there. I have never smelled or tasted a “scat” aroma, only the boar musk, which I enjoy. The roasts and (giant) chops don’t need much more than a little salt and pepper, but I’ll add tasty herbs to the sausage, not to mask but to enhance the flavor.

    My gourmet foodie friends think this is the best “wild boar”-like meat ever and keep bugging me for it, so I have to keep enough in the freezer to share. Luckily this is not hard as everyone else – silly people – thinks that boar meat tastes bad, so I get my goodies cheap.

    • Interestingly, of the many reports I’ve gathered from people who’ve butched a boar, Berkshire have never had taint. Taint is actually remarkably rare. It seems that red Duroc are the most prone to it and perhaps only when kept in pens. Even some Duroc have been reported not to have taint. Pasturing essentially eliminates taint based on the reports and research, especially when not on the commercial hog corn/soy feeds.

  28. Frank says:

    Tam pigs here. No boar taint. Pasture.Some corn. Thanks for publishing all your research. Very helpful.

  29. cath says:

    I’m really curious how you went with this boar taint experiment. I’m arguing here with some aussie chefs that our three year old boar won’t have taint. They’ve been fed on organic greens, fruit and bread pretty much all their lives. Live a great life generally, free from stress. And our younguns taste unlike any pig you would ever eat. Did you try a boar older than 6 months?

    Cath

    • We tested progressively older boars up to 18 months. This past fall we retired an eight year old boar and he was delicious, no taint.[1, 2] You can take a bite and see how your boar is. See Have Your Pig and Eat It Too. The final test is to slaughter the boar and pass the plate around so that the chefs can taste him. If they like what they taste, hopefully they’ll then buy.

  30. Dave Brethauer says:

    Recently took two – 1 year old – Mulefoot boars (uncut) into the processor. During the scheduling I had to listen to his diatribe about me bringing uncut boars in and how they need to be cut or they’ll taste bad! We are just now sitting down to dinner, having a tenderloin, and the kitchen smells horrible! Ya, only the best smelling pork I’ve ever smelled!! I don’t have the experience you and many of your readers have but I think I understand this whole taint issue. My big guy smells horrible when he’s in with the sows and is mating. Remove him from the girls and in a few days he smells, well not like roses, but nothing like he did before. But I can only imagine when he’s rutting that there just may be something hormonal at that time that could possibly effect the taste of the meat. I’ve read where adrenaline dumps can ruin meat.
    Anyway, best of luck on your on-farm processing! Love your NoWeirdStuff.org!! My sentiments exactly!

    • What you’re smelling during his time in with the females is the taint chemical on his breath, the pheromones he is using to help bring the sows into full heat. This shows that you are able to smell the taint. Only about 75% of people can smell it. What some people do is separate the boars from females for a month prior to slaughter.

      Adrenaline dump into the meat, stress, can ruin the meat in both sexes and across all species. Or at least to my tastes. Wolves and lions have a different opinion.

  31. Mike Burns says:

    Hey Walter, I just took a couple of SOWS to the processor and they eached dressed about 520 lbs. One was three plus years and the other was 1.5 to 2 years. I am getting mostly sausage made and am a little concerned about meat quality. They have been raised outside – not confinement. I searched but found nothing on this topic can you tell me your thoughts on SOW meat quality? Thanks, Mike Burns – Georgia

    • My favorite cut of pork is the Boston Butt steaks from big sows. I’ve had them as large as 800 lbs. The meat is juicy, flavorful and very well marbled. Trim out any ligaments when preparing to cook. The tenderloin, sirloin and chops are delicious too. Some chefs reserve big sows a year ahead from us as they want them for making prosciutto and other specialty cuts. For regular store sales the cuts are way too large. We also make sausage, ground and hot dogs from the big sows. Delicious!

  32. sara says:

    hello we have a 4 year old boar who we think weighs about 800 plus pounds. who we are looking to slaughter and our main concern is he’ll be tainted. now he is a durc and is in a pen but its more of a house outside with a bi playyard .if i could upload a picture i would the pig is im thinking even bigger then what archemdies was. but that is our main concern so if you could please get back to me on this we would really appreaciate it. thank you and god bless many more pork chops.lol :)

    • sara says:

      and also he hasnt been near our female for over 3 1/2 months now.

    • Archimedes was 1,054 lbs. We’ve had boars as large as a bit over 1,700 lbs. But ours are primarily based on Yorkshire which is a low taint breed and we’ve been testing and breeding away from taint for nearly a decade. Duroc is the breed that I have heard more reports of taint with so I would have some concern about taint. His not being with a female for three and a half months helps. If he can’t smell them that is ideal. Put him on a pasture/hay and dairy diet for a month and that may help too. Some reports suggest that the low fiber corn/soy diet of commercial feed is part of the issue. Having him out on pasture also helps with the skatole inhalation issue since he is then cleaner than being in a pen. You might want to try the biopsy to taste test him. Keep in mind that only about 75% of people can detect taint.

  33. Luis says:

    Hi walter i have a 300 Pound boar and what can i do so the meat wont taste weird?

    • The first thing I would do is take a small bite and taste him to see if he tastes good or has taint. See this post for how I do that. The good news is most boars aren’t tainted and that is not a particularly large boar. Some things you can do that will bias the odds in your favor are:

      – Feed him a high fiber diet low in corn/soy.
      – Put him on pasture rather than a pen and ideally do managed rotational grazing.
      – Feed dairy as part of his ration.
      – Keep him away from females.

  34. K says:

    Here’s our experience:

    Mulefoot
    Away from the girls and upwind for a month
    6.5 months old
    living in a smaller than I’d like pen (before we got the big pen up and going)
    tastes very good very very good –like better than anything I’ve ever tasted good. Just salt and pepper seasoning. Fat is out of this world carmelized on the grill. We had pork chops and pork steaks so far.
    This boar was smaller than the other boar we sold as a breeder
    Is boar taint the same smell/taste as buck “taint”? Sugarmt. have rams right? We have goats but I assume the buckiness is in both rams and bucks?

    I did give him chicory (1/2 cup twice a day) ground chicory 1 1/2 days before slaughter. This is (I’m sure) an insignificant contribution to the taste. It is suppose to help when give 2 weeks before slaughter…but of course I read about it 1 1/2 days before he was slated for slaughter. LOL The usual last minute shenanigans.

    He had the ground corn/soy 16% hog mix generically found in feed stores…along with bread, kefir and whey at about a half gallon a day for the last couple weeks. I also gave him a couple handfuls of hay between feedings. I didn’t cut down on the grain feed at all. I wonder if the kefir had an effect on any skatole present? It’s a fantastic probiotic. Hmm…
    I’m curious how you found dairy to help with the skatole or the androstenone. I’m assuming it’s the skatole that the dairy helps prevent? Do you replace the protein in the grains with the dairy protein the last few weeks before slaughter?

    All these studies where the chicory and/or dairy instead of grain and/or pasture where they don’t smell/eat/sleep in their own feces makes me wonder how much androstenone is a factor in the taint and that the skatole is the biggest culprit. I don’t know just curious.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Here’s the study on the chicory http://www.animalbytes.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/2010_181zammerini.pdf

    • We feed dairy their entire lives – we don’t buy commercial hog feeds or commercial grain feeds. See the Pig Page for details on our pigs’s diet. The majority component of their diet is pasture/hay depending on the season. Dairy is next. Primarily the dairy is whey[1,2]. But the whey is not pure whey – it has some milk in it and sometimes we get a load of milk or cream so we are able to make yogurt in our 1,000 gallon tanks. I have not tried the chicory, yet, but ordered seed this spring to experiment with growing it as I’ve heard it is another good feed and we may be able to raise it well in our pastures. Pasture does not equal grass. In addition to grasses we grow “>legumes like alfalfa, clovers, vetch, etc and brassicas like kale, rape improving the forages through over seeding.

  35. Natasha says:

    Hi Walter,
    Thank you so much for your blog, you’ve helped me and so many other people.
    I do have a question, but first, I’ll start for the beginning.
    Last year I bought two Guinea Hogs, a young boar and a guilt. They bred fine and she was defiantly pregy. I kept them together in a massive enclosure and a small ventilated shed that was big enough for at least five pigs. They had junk hay for a bed, everything seemed to be going well and then I show up one day and my guilt’s sides are no longer round. I looked everywhere for the piglets but there was nothing.

    I don’t know what to think.
    Now she’s pregnant again and I’m not sure if I should separate the boar or what.
    Would you be able to give me some advice or refer me to one of you posts? I looked around but can’t find anything about it.
    Thank you,
    Tasha

    • It sounds like she aborted. Sometimes a pregnancy gets absorbed but that tends to be slow. Abortions tend to be a quick change in body shape. Stress can cause it but I don’t think having the boar in with her would be the cause.

      My first question is, did you vaccinate? If not then it could be one of the diseases that can cause abortions. Check out ThePigSite‘s disease problem solver but be aware that it brings up a lot of false positives. Still, it can be helpful.

      She may rebreed fine the second time. I would give it another shot. If not, then she is not a breeder.

      Good luck!

  36. Natasha says:

    Thank you!
    I’m not sure if she’s had the shots. Thank you for the info, I’ll give her another try.
    It might be all my fault.

  37. I took our 2 yr old Guinea hog/Kunekune cross breeding boar to the butcher today. Was gonna do all pepperoni due to him being intact, which is what my butcher advised. However, when I was told what they charge for making pepperoni, I decided to just do some ham steaks, tenderloins, bacon and ribs and the rest in sausage and pepperoni. I’m praying he isn’t tainted. He had been separated from the sow for a few weeks now, plus she is bred and isn’t cycling. So…we shall see. I tried to sell him outright, no takers…didn’t need him anymore as I have another boar I like better.

  38. Anne says:

    Hi Walter,

    We are in Oregon and have been raising Guinea Hogs for a few years now. They are small and slow growing (the way we raise them at least) so are older when we butcher and the boars are not in with the sows but can smell them through the electric fence.

    We have butchered 5 or 6 boars now all of them over a year and all of them I believe have had some smell or slight taste to the meat that has fat like the bacon, hams and hocks (at first I thought it was something the butcher added like liquid smoke) but then we butchered a few ourselves and noticed the same thing.

    I don’t know if this is in our “line” or the fact they were smelling sows and gilts in heat (they were definately acting like boars) all the time as we have quite a few sows we have kept for breeding.

    Now I don’t know what to do with the rest of them (10 or so) as we usually sell them as live animals and the customer can either take them home to butcher after we assist them in the kill and bleed out or they pay the mobile butcher and the shop to cut and wrap.

    Are there ethnic groups that like boars over barrows? I think going forward we will need to castrate our piglets or try a different herd boar if it is in the lines, but Guinea Hogs are all pretty tightly related so I am wondering if we can’t slow raise them uncastrated without boar taint as we were told we could…any thoughts would be appreciated.

    The rest of our boars right now are in a pasture further away from the sows so we will try butchering another one after it has been at least 30 days away from them but there is one spot they can meet up at the fence line that we can’t really watch all the time so we won’t have them 100% separated either…but with the spring grasses up they are mostly worried about eating!

    Anne

    • This sounds like you do have taint and it sounds genetic since you’re already pasturing and they’re getting plenty of fiber in their diet. In that case castration or clients who don’t mind the smell (not everyone can smell it) are the solution. I don’t know much about Guinea Hog but perhaps there are some lines which have less or no taint.

      To get the separation effect to work you’ll probably have to have the boars out of sight and scent of the sows and gilts.

  39. Kim R says:

    Genetically speaking…Which breeds are more prone to boar taint? I’ve got a boar that was supposed to be a barrow, but he truly does still have his boy bits intact. He’s a Berkshire and at 100+ lbs. I’m not thrilled with the idea of castration (I am quite sure he would agree). I would like to harvest at around 250 lbs. and call it good. I can move him away from any females if it’s advisable. Your thoughts on that? Did you do more testing of animals at 7,8 or 9 months?
    Thank you so much!

    • The research I have read suggests that boar taint is actually not all that common at slaughter ages. One boar taint researcher I talked with said that the Red Duroc breed is the most likely to have taint however I have heard from people who have that who do and who don’t have taint in their slaughtered boars. Taint is a function of genetics, management and feed so it may well be that even with a tainty breed one can work around it to a degree. See the article about testing for taint.

  40. Minda Brackman says:

    We have 2 – 16 month old Full blooded Gloucester Old Spot intact males that we bought as feeder pigs. They have been primarily woods/weed fed, leftover veggies/fruit/breads, with supplemental non -GMO grains (little commercial feed.) They do have a recently farrowed sow housed near them and we move them from area to area with portable electric fencing. They don’t “smell bad” to me but maybe I can’t smell boar taint…I was wondering what you thought my chances of having spoiled meat were? I would like to send them to freezer camp soon. Many thanks!

  41. JohnnyK says:

    Walter, my wife and I have been reading many articles, blogs and the Pastured Pigs Facebook page on the pros and cons of castration. This is our first year farrowing and one of our two mothers has had her piglets, which include 2 males. They are 11 days old now and we have made two attempts at taking the 2 males out to perform castration, both times we were chased out by mom, which was quite unsettling for her and for us. She is a very good mother and showing all of the signs of a great sow; nursing regularly, being a bit protective of her young from the dog and the other sow but nothing extreme that would make use cull her after weaning – in fact she is really what we are looking for in a sow. The stress of taking her young away to castrate has made her weary of me, but not my wife – I do not like this since I am the one doing a majority of the animal work and planning.

    My question is that if we decide NOT to castrate, how do we deal with having both males and females in the same pasture area? We have a small farm but over the last couple of years have developed a good rotation where there is always fresh pasture every month. That rotation would be much more difficult if we had to separate and had animals on multiple pastures at multiple times. I have read here that at 9 months the males should be butchered (at the latest) before they reach sexual maturity. Can we leave them together until then or should the males and females be separated throughout the pasture season? Are there specific signs I should look for to know if the boars are ready to go (yes I know mounting, foaming and all of that – but are there more subtle signs?)? I am not concerned about boar taint, we will likely harvest these pigs for our own freezer and the rest of our family’s freezer.

    Thanks Walter,

    JohnnyK

    • When a piglet screams it triggers an instinctual protective reaction in the sow. This is normal. This can get you very badly hurt. You want to avoid making piglets scream, especially around a sow and you do not want to be the source of the sow’s attention during such a situation as she can maim or kill you. Pigs are very powerful and she will be operating on instinct. No matter how nice she might normally be she may harm you.

      I would train the sow to follow me and move her a goodly distance away out of sight and two fences distant. Then I would collect the piglets quietly and take them somewhere else even more secure like in the house.

      If you decide not to castrate there are a number of things you can do such as feeding a high fiber diet (pasture) and rotationally grazing them (management) to maximize the odds in your favor. See Have Your Pig and Eat It Too.

      In terms of accidental breedings, I find that gilts don’t tend to get pregnant (take) with their first litter until their eight months old the vast majority of times. However sometimes we’ll have a Lolita as young as six months. Not a big deal. We let her farrow, let her test. The boars think they’re read to go at three or four months. They’ll start sex play. They’ll be seriously doing it by six months and hitting their stride around eight to ten months with full sperm production. But they can get a gilt pregnant as soon as she can take. If you want to be safe then separate the boars from the gilts at five months of age.

  42. Steve says:

    We just butchered a boar that was 6 to 7 months old and 295 lbs. Absolutely no difference in the meat. Kill, cut, then bleed out!

  43. I raised 18 pigs the past 3 years and I salt cured 4 shoulder hams and 4 rear leg hams. Three of the pigs were young app. 8 months of age. The 4th hog was a boar. I removed his testicles app. 2 months prior to slaughtering him. I salt and honey cured all of the hams and shoulders last winter 2014. Every time I walk into the curing house from the first few weeks of beginning the curing and now app. 1 year later the boar yet has the same funky smell to it and the other young ones do not. I yet plan on eating the boar. The boar weighed close to 500 pounds and was app. 2.5 years old. My plan is to soak the hams in water mixed with some vinegar for a few hours then change to fresh water and soak in fresh water for a minimum of 3 days changing water each day and then soak in water with a couple cups of brown sugar and a bit of vinegar and then cook him and hope for a great tasting ole boar. They say once you get past the smell you got it licked. Do not want to let all that meat go to waste. lol Any suggestions???

    • If you removed his testicles two months prior to slaughter then you castrated him. One month is the generally recommended time to wait after castration before slaughter to remove taint in boars who carry the taint. Thus your boar is a barrow and should have no taint. Perhaps do a double blind taste testing with a significant sample size to assure yourself if the ‘funky’ smell is real or imagined. If the chemicals that cause boar taint are there then they would be enhanced by lightly cooking with no spices and that should be part of the test procedure.

      For more information about boar taint read this article: Have Your Pig and Eat It Too and then follow the links from there to additional information.

  44. Matt Bailey says:

    Hi Walter, nice work on the boar taint/castration issue. I was wondering if you continued the statistical analysis and how many boars over 6 months you have tested now? Do you reach a statistically significant sample size? Thanks.

    • The experiment is pretty much concluded since at this point we’ve done boars up to eight years of age and of several different breeds as well as feed and other conditions. Total boar sample size is now into the thousands. See the Taint Article for more.

      • Matt Bailey says:

        Thanks Walter. Have you considered writing up your work on boar taint as a formal/informal scientific paper? It might add weight to your blog (not saying your blog doesn’t carry weight :)) and be valuable in addressing the misconceptions on boar taint. Male piglets everywhere applaud you! Cheers.

        • The idea has been suggested many times. I really did the research for my own purposes for our farm and it answered the questions I needed answering. Going through the effort of publishing it in a scientific journal would only be useful if I was seeking tenure at a university. Since they’re funded through grants and such they have the time to go to that extra effort while I need to move on to the next thing here on the farm. Just a matter of priorities.

  45. Charity says:

    Walter, can you please tell me if mulefoot PA are a breed that are prone to taint? Thank you for all your work here!

  46. Luke says:

    Walter, Thanks for contributing here and on permies.
    I raise woods-pastured pigs in Michigan. Question: How do you cut your breeding stock when its time for them to go? Our processor said keep the tenderloin and make the rest sausage last time, but I’d like more than 300lb sausage…

    • Larger pigs are often reserved in advance as primals by chefs or individuals doing charcuterie. They’re typically particularly interested in the large hams, huge bellies and shoulders. The loins are also very good. There is more demand for the big sows than the big boars because the big boars tend to be very lean and thus not have as much fat as people want for charcuterie. For the big boars the more often go to sausage or hot dogs mixed with fat from sows or gilts. I do tend to save out the tenderloins, hearts and any other pre-ordered items and I usually save a Boston Butt steak for my own scientific taste testing – my favorite cut.

      For an over view of cuts see this article: What Good is a Pig.

  47. Sarah Poyser says:

    Hi Walter,
    I am looking at eating around a 20 month old boar large black cross berkshire. I’m not sure how much he weighs but I would say around 250kgs.
    He will be going in a trailer for an hour to the abbotoir where there may be on heat ladies about. Will this affect his chance of not having taint?
    I’m also wandering what cuts you would suggest or recommend we get from him as I have no experience with this.
    Also I am in a spot and have to put a 7month old unused boar with an 150kg p1 sow, do you think he will be ok, she is a purebred tamworth so can be territorial?
    I appreciate how you share your knowledge, from right over in Australia you are my guru :)

    • There is some controversy about the question of if a boar being around heating females will cause taint or not. I no longer separate them to prevent taint after having done many tests with boars of more and more advanced ages and coming to the conclusion that heat does not produce taint. Taint is stored in the fat and it takes two weeks to a month to get there. A momentary exposure to heat and production of pheromones will not cause a problem. The taint I smell on a boars breath when he is wooing the ladies is merely in his saliva and not in his fat so he tastes fine.

      The first question on cuts is does your boar have taint. The only way to know for certain is to smell test a cooked sample either pre-slaughter with a biopsy or post-slaughter by cooking up a piece of back fat. It is important to have the tester person know that they can indeed detect taint since not everyone can. See the article on taint for a lot more details.

      A seven month old boar is just coming into his breeding time. I find that they reach their prime around ten months and onward but are capable of breeding prior to that. The real question is will she beat him up. If she is a lot bigger and she is not in heat she will probably give him a sound beating. You could introduce them slowly across a fence line and then open both areas to a new area with plenty of food leaving the old areas accessible. This will reduce conflict.

  48. Paul says:

    Hey Walter,

    Any update on your research on boar taint? We have a small herd on pasture and find castration to be the only really unpleasant job of raising the pigs.

    Thanks
    Paul

    • For the latest and greatest news on boar taint see the Taint article which includes the topic of how to do a biopsy. There is a great deal of info in the comments here on this post and on that post as well. Follow the links through to other posts and research. One of the nice things about not castrating is the boars grow about 10% faster than barrows, put on more meat and are more efficient at converting feed into meat. This gives them a competitive edge on pasture.

  49. Derek Neels says:

    Hi Walter
    I will be raising a litter of pigs indoors in a large pen. I would like to avoid castration if at all possible. They will be fed organic hazelnuts, cow and goat milk, bread, and greens. I am wondering if I butcher them by six or seven months, will boar taint be noticeable? Just because they are not on pasture?

    Thanks
    Derek

    • Without testing for taint you can’t know for sure. Boar taint is real. The good news is boar taint is not common – most boars don’t have it at slaughter. It can be controlled with good genetics, good high fiber feed and good extensive management (pasture rotation). The younger the age the less likely to have boar taint. We have raised them to eight years with no boar taint. Penning them is one strike – it would be for the Skatole based taint. See the article here for more information, read the comments and follow links in both the article and the comments.

  50. Michael says:

    I have a boar about a year old. I do not have a lot of space to separate him from the females. How much space do I need to make sure he is sufficiently separated to insure no taint?

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