Boar Tasting


Basa Boar Pork Chop

Tonight we taste tested pork chops from our oldest boar to date. The conclusion? Delicious! There was no sign of boar taint. The meat and bacon was preferred over the sow meat by 80% of our taste testers with 20% being undecided and finding both were most excellent. I admit I was the one who was undecided – I’m just a basic carnivore, fat, protein, salt… ah!

Basa, who used to be known as Little’Un until he got renamed by my son Will was thirty months old when he met his maker. A typical finisher pig is six months old when it goes to market. Basa was an old boar by that standard and thus far more likely to show boar taint if it existed. Just as importantly, Basa was intact, that is to say he was a boar with balls, and actively breeding right up to his last day. Nothing special was done, no segregation from the herd.

As long time readers know, I’ve been researching the subject of Boar Taint [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] for a long time. Boar taint, when it occurs, is a bad smell and taste to the meat. There is concern among some people that pigs must be castrated in order to prevent boar taint. Research has shown that boar taint exists only in a small number of animals. What we have been doing was progressively slaughtering older and older intact, that is to say non-castrated, boars from our herd to test for taint. Apparently it does not exist in our herd as we have now tested over a hundred intact boars which have been eaten by thousands of people.

In related news this winter we also taste tested Black Jack and his brother who were out of a Large Black sow that is unrelated to all of our other sows. Both of them tasted delicious with no sign of boar taint so it appears that line in our herd is also taint free.

All the above mentioned boars are decedents of Archimedes who’s toothy grin, sillyness and buff physique have often frequented my blog pages.

Boar taint is caused by two chemicals, may have a genetic component linking it to some breeds of pigs (particularly some Duroc lines), has been correlated with factory farm Confinement Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) styles of rearing where they breath their fecal dust and may be prevented or minimized through the use of high fiber diets and pasture.

Our pigs are Yorkshire, Berkshire, Tamworth, Glouster Old Spot, Hampshire and who knows what else – a mix if heritage breeds. We raise them on pasture in the warm months and hay in the winter augmented with dairy primarily in the form of whey but also some butter, cheese trim, excess milk, a little boiled barley and occasional bread. They live outdoors in the fresh air. About as opposite from a CAFO as we can get.

Since we’ve been testing now for four years and have not found any sign of boar taint in our herd I am confident that it is not there. This is good to know because I don’t like castrating piglets. They don’t like it either. We’re both much happier this way.

Outdoors: 33°F/25°F Partially Sunny, light dusting of snow
Farm House: 61°F/51°F
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/52°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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16 Responses to Boar Tasting

  1. Brian says:

    Well you’ve convinsed me not to casterate my piglets now, boy did I hate doing that. One question after almost 3 yrs how tender was the dear departed? Ive never kept a pig longer than a year for fear the meat would be tough. I have a sow I would like to keep for a few years because shes a good pig and mother plus I like her. I just figured when it was time i’d turn her into sausage Never thought shed be edible.

  2. Holly says:

    What a relief! Castrating piglets is an awful process. I always dreaded the days we had to castrate and I wasn’t even doing the hard part. I would just hold the poor things while Walter did the cutting. I never looked. Just held. It used to be that castrating was the part I most dreaded about our farm tasks, followed by loading pigs. Now that we have our holding pen and loading ramp, I don’t worry about loading anymore (it is generally a pretty smooth, quick process) and since Walter took the risk of slaughtering boars and did the boar taint research on our heard, we haven’t had to cut a piglet in many months. Yeah! Thank you, sweetie.
    -Holly

  3. Brian,

    Both the boar and the sow (18 months) were tender. A lot of that has to do with the marbling. You’ll notice in the photo above that the pork chop is well marbled, that is to say it has fat interspersed within the meat. Rather than aiming for an overly thick backfat layer we’re breeding for marbling for better, more tender meat.

    We also hang meat for several days to a week when possible rather than having it cut immediately. This is like with pastured beef and lamb. I did experiments with varying hang times and found that contrary to the popular ‘wisdom’ in the industry, pork does benefit from hanging. This makes sense. It is meat and improves with aging.

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  4. valereee says:

    Walter, will you still castrate for customers who ask you to, or will you just guarantee your animals free of board taint, or what?

    What do you think is probably a reasonable length of time for other people testing their own lines to age an animal? Do you think 30 months is necessary?

    Thanks!

    Val

  5. Val, 30 months isn’t necessary for testing. I just keep on going with older and older boars because eventually we replace them and I am very curious as to how they taste.

    For our experiment we began by testing fairly young boars. I was satisfied once we had taste tested several boars from our herd older than eight months. All were taint free.

    Having never found any taint and having done a lot of reading about it I came to the conclusion we don’t have it in our herd, be it the genetics, the feed or the management style on pasture.

    We will castrate boar piglets for customers, turn them (the boars, no the customers) into barrows. I do charge extra for castration and people need to order the piglet well in advanced so it can be done when the piglet is as young as possible. At this point we get almost no requests for barrows between the education campaign I’ve been waging and the fact that the barrows are more expensive. I also think many people appreciate the more humane approach to not castrating.

  6. Jessie says:

    I am in Hog Heavan :) Having been able to read a post from your blog every day week, it makes my lunch break all the more enjoyable! Keep the info and stories coming, I love it! And congrats on a taint free line of piggies.
    Jessie

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi walter, yo blog… i gotta get back to work lest i get fired, but before i do….

    i read yo topic on feeding the dogs (u really have gigahuge lovelies)and i noticed you give away the feet as yo unwanted!

    Have you tried making stew out of those feet, u’ll fight for them with Kita believe me!

    In Uganda, the first thing to disappear off the butcher’s table are the feet of pigs and cattle into people’s saucepans coz they make deliiiiiicious stew with very thick soup and the kawowo (aroma)…..

    Hav u tried it, u might be loosing the best part of yo stock!

    Olive

  8. Unfortunately we have to deal with government regulations that make selling some things tricky. In the past we couldn’t sell the feet because I couldn’t get the USDA inspected butchers to package them. This year they have started packaging the ears, feet and bones for us. It took a while and I’m not sure why the changed happened or if it was simply an issue with these butchers or rather an issue with USDA regulations. Now we are selling the pig’s trotters (feet) and people get them for exactly what you’re talking about, soups and stews.

  9. Mellifera says:

    I’ve seen them for sale down here in Florida, so it can’t be the USDA. Might just be that this is the South and people (and butchers) are used to thinking of pig’s feet as edible.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ahaa trotters… thats the word!! it seemed to hav vanished from ma memory yesterday, thanks Walter. Wat wud we do without you??

    We call it ‘molokony’ here, just mention the word and u’ll have thousands flocking yo home as ‘visitors’ for the day probably even yo long lost granny!

    In Uganda,most of the things are sold and eaten fresh so u don’t need alot of packaging and storage, these trotters even rarely reach the butchers’ table…… there demand is just too high!

    By the way how do you guys usually enjoy yo pork?

    Siiba bulungi.
    Olive

  11. “How do you guys usually enjoy yo pork?”

    A most interesting and good question…

    The pig is such a versatile animal. The pork prepared in so many ways and styles. On our table most often:

    Pork Chops broiled with seasoning

    Country Ribs in my mother’s sauce

    Spare ribs slow cooked in the same sauce

    Hams slow cooked with maple syrup

    Left over ham in sandwiches

    Pork bones and hocks in split pea soup or vegetable stew. We eat a lot of soups and stews.

    Bacon, bacon, any time! With eggs, on tomato sandwiches, on roast turkey…

    Left over meat gets diced or pulled in fresh egg omelets.

    Picnic shoulder roasts which always generate lots of great left overs.

    Hot dogs

    Kielbasa

    Sausage

    I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the things we do. There’s also plans here for salami, summer sausage and pepperoni in the future…

    Finally, after we have made soups and stews the dogs get the bones. Nothing left when they are done.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Yummy, yummy yummy!!

    U c I had to share my misery with someone who understands pork, it was a friday evening and the weekend was definitely in (wen i asked you how u enjoy yo pork) and instead of me being out there having a party tym with some ribs and a beer, i was in office nailed to my computer punching away at some key board, trying desperately to beat a deadline for a monday morning report presentation!!!
    The scent of roasted pork was overpowering (my eyes were practically tearing…., it was terrible!!!

    U c Walter, Ugandans have the uncanny ability of reducing several seriously well endowed pigs into grains of sand, u wudnt even see a bone lying around. U can have as many as 30 pigs slaughtered for a pack of about 5 joints(bars) per night. then we have these young boys who roast pork with an expertise that challenges even the best of chefs… leaving you practically panting like a dog.

    The pork is heavily seasoned mainly with local seasoning and vegies, then put on locally made barbecue sticks and roasted over charcoal or firewood stoves (sigiri) or panfried thereafter served HOT with avocado, green leafy vegies, boiled cassava chips and ‘kachumbali’- a mixture of fresh raw tomatoes, onions and fresh chilli!!!Top it up ofcourse with a super cold beer… ma mouth is watering again!!

    We have the sausages, becons and the like packed and found in supermarkets which would probably end up in restaurants, takeaways and upper class homes but for an average Ugandan this is the way to go with the pork!!

    U ever decide on a holiday in our sun, DONT EVER HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY!!

    Olive

  13. Larbo says:

    Walter,

    Thanks so much for all the great info on boar meat! I’ll be linking my blog to your great website. We all appreciate your sacrifice, eating your way through more than a hundred boars! ;^)

    I started researching the subject of “boar taint” because a local organic farmer here in Illinois has offered to sell me his 800-pound, 3-year old Berkshire boar for next to nothing ($50 total) because he considers the meat unsaleable for his regular customers. He won’t touch it, and he clearly thinks I’m a little kooky to be willing to eat it.

    From what you’ve written, it sounds like you don’t even notice any boar taint smells when frying or grilling. I was thinking about asking the butcher to trim off all the fat, but, based on your experience, I’ll leave all the fat on and fry some up before making a decision about whether the fat has any of the “taint” hormones in it.

    Thanks again for daring to experiment and sharing all your findings!

  14. Larbo,

    If you get the chance, take a soldering iron to some of the fat right after slaughter. Sniff it. If it smells fine then either you can’t detect boar taint chemicals (all for the better :) ) or the boar doesn’t have taint.

    The existence of taint varies with breed, line, diet, management, age, etc. I can smell it, as I know from the breath of our boars when they’re talking up a lady, but the levels in our boar’s meat and fat is so low it is not detectable when cooking or eating. Note that most of the taint, if present, is deposited in the fat. Thus the lean of a tainted boar could be used for sausage mixed with fat from another source such as a sow.

    Do let us know how your experiment goes.

    Good eating!

    -Walter

  15. Cheryl says:

    Hi Walter,
    I see lots of information about boar taint up here but I am also wondering if there is an effect on taste when a gilt who is either in heat, or possibly (unconfirmed) pregnant is butchered. We had a gilt that was intended for the table end up with our boar and we are not sure if she is pregnant or not. Can you tell me your thoughts or point me towards discussion on this if you have written about it already? Thank you so much!

    • I have heard that there can be heat taint in gilts and sows. I avoid taking sows and gilts that are in heat. However, once they are out of heat and simply pregnant then there is no taint in my limited experience of having tasted a few (2?) pregnant ones over the years. If possible, I would avoid slaughtering a pregnant pig because the value of her litter is so high.

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