Boar Meat Redux

Finisher vs Old Boar Ground

The ground meat on the left is from finishers, six month old pigs. The ground meat on the right is from an eight year old boar, Archimedes.[1, 2] Neither were castrated. The big boar was sexually active right up to within hours of slaughter.

I’ve written before about Boar Meat. Both burgers are meat from non-castrated male boar pigs. Neither shows boar taint – something we don’t have on our farm. Because our pigs don’t have the taint we’re able to raise pigs without castrating which is more humane. Boar taint is a real thing and does existing in a very small number of lines of pigs but you can breed away from it, feed away from it and manage away from it.

Big Boar Ground Patty

I had expected there to be less fat in the big boar than other pigs since archimedes was leaner than even our usual pastured pigs. Our pigs are fairly lean because they are pastured and not fed the high calorie corn/soy based commercial hog feed. Big boars tend to be extra lean. The butcher related that Archimedes had almost no fat under his skin (backfat) and we separated the leaf lard out but the amount of fat in the ground suggests he had a goodly amount of intra muscular marbling which is highly prized as it adds to the tenderness and flavor of meat.

Boar Burger and Finisher Burger Cooking

Interestingly, the meat of the big boar (~1,157 lbs, eight years old) is redder and tastes almost exactly like beef. The smaller (~250 lb, 6 months old) finisher pig’s meat tastes like pork as would be expected. In both cases they have the slightly sweet taste associated with the pasture and dairy feeding we do.

Both pigs were raised the same and fed the same. The smaller one is the offspring of the bigger one. This leaves the difference between them being age and the fact that the big boar was close to our herd foundation while the finisher pig is the result of over a dozen porcine generations of selective breeding on our farm.

The same can be said between the difference of veal vs beef. Veal is from calves that are just a few months old, perhaps up to six months old in the case of rose veal and the meat is lighter in color and flavor. Similarly, finisher pigs are relatively young animals at only six months old or so. This leads to the thought that much of the taste and meat color difference is just age.

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About Walter Jeffries

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21 Responses to Boar Meat Redux

  1. michael says:

    any pictures of that 11oo lb boar before slaughter?

  2. Brian Heyer says:

    Fascinating, especially the comment about the older boar tasting like beef.

    Sir, have you ever heard of pork tasting off because it was fed table scraps? A friend of mine did that, feeding the hogs grain rations plus aggressively scavanged table scraps from a school cafeteria. He thought it tasted off and is reluctant to experiment again.

    • The scraps are good nutrition but the problem is you don’t really know what is in them so you don’t know how they’re going to affect the flavor. It could well be that what was in the food did have a negative affect on the flavor of his pork. Of interest, the flavor gets laid down in the last two weeks to a month of feeding and is primarily in the fat. We’ve been offered cafeteria scraps several times from area schools but I have declined because of several reasons:

      1) In our state it is illegal to feed these if any meat was in them if the pork will be for sale. In some states it is okay to feed them to pigs if it is cooked. The reason for this is problems with disease transmission in the past. The complete ban on feeding is an unfortunate over reaction as it is a waste of good nutrients. Chickens are another animal to consider feeding with these sorts of scraps and that is legal as apparently there is not the disease transmission issue. At the very least these foods should go to the compost pile where the nutrients can be recaptured and not to the landfill.

      2) Lack of control of what is going into the feed. We feed pasture/hay and dairy for most of our pig diet which gives a wonderful sweet flavor. I don’t want to risk this flavor by feeding table scraps.

      3) Glass, utensils and other foreign objects are all too likely to end up in the barrels and that could hurt the pigs.

      So in summary, the table scraps might be the source of the bad taste depending on what there is in them. Due to disease, legal issues, flavor and foreign objects. While fine for a homestead hog where you have control I would not recommend getting them from restaurants and schools.

  3. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    During part of my Marine Corps time I was in a radio rebuild center at Camp Pendleton. The old gunnery sergeant who was my section head was preparing for his retirement by running a piggery down around Chula Vista in his off hours. He collected scraps from several restaurants daily, and he told me he boiled it all before feeding. That was about 1966. He was feeding those scraps and day old bread as his main rations. Pigs got persistence.
    By the way, Walter, you give real meaning to grokking who you’re eating!
    Merry Christmas, Jeffrieses.

  4. David B. says:

    Cool! Thank you for the update on Archimedes. I was wondering since his farewell post how he had turned out. Did you get any whole cuts of meat or did it all go to sausage/hotdogs?

    So I guess the big pigs are closer to beef in more than weight (your short-legged cattle comments)

  5. Mary P. says:

    My son raised a boar for breeding, and ended up butchering him (after a successful breeding) when he started killing chickens. He dressed out at 300 pounds, so was a big one. He was on pasture and hay, fed table scraps of all kinds (from friends & family), and fed all the acorns he would eat (a lot!) for the last month. Best pork I ever ate!

  6. Adam M. says:

    I think the castration is in humane and am glad that you dont do it. There is a farmer around here who I had been getting meat from and I mentioned your reasearch to him and he said it was bunk and that if you dont castrate the meat is horrid but obviously it is working for you. How can I get him to stop castrating?

    • Education. Give him the link to our web site and the articles about boar taint like this article. There is more and more scientific and farm field research being done that shows that tain is mostly a myth and can be controlled without resorting to drugs or surgery (castration). Taint is real – in a small minority of pigs. It can exist in a few lines of pigs (Duroc I’ve been told) that under certain feeding (corn/soy has been suggested) and management (confinement/pens). If he actually does have taint in his pigs then he can breed away from it, feed away from it (adding fiber, hay, chicory) and manage away from it (pastures, rotational grazing). All of these things help to naturally prevent taint without the need for castration.

  7. Tom Y says:

    Not sure where to post this…hope I am forgiven if I am digressing too much…

    Dived into foodie-ism tonight…Decided to do my first taste test of pastured Berkshire pork vs the supermarket cut. Used a chop to compare. Salted, fryed in pan with oil….

    The Berkshire had more marbeling and fat around the edges for sure…and it was a bit more tender. And I tasted a slight difference. But to be honest I was hoping for more flavor distinction between the two. Perhaps my taste buds are inadequate (I have always been more of a “volume” eater as my belly proves), or perhaps frying in the same pan equalized the flavor from the oil I used?? I dunno… Any thoughts?

    • The flavor of the pork, and other meats, is established in the last two weeks to a month of an animals life primarily by what it eats. Flavor is primarily in the fat, not the actual meat. This is why very low fat meat seems blander. So if the Berkshire pig you were eating ate a standard corn/soy commercial hog feed like the supermarket factory farmed CAFO pig then the flavor will be similar. The only real difference being that the Berkshire pork is known for more intramuscular fat, the marbling, than the standard cross used in factory farms.

      The oil, if any, that you use to cook the pork in will also have an effect of flavor as will any spicing.

      So, check with the farmer as to what the Berkshire pork was raised on and specifically what it ate during the last month of its life. You can find out about what we feed our pigs on the Pig page and in the Feeding tagged articles. We primarily feed pasture and dairy which gives a sweet flavor to the meat.

      • Tom Y says:

        Thanks for the response…yep what they ate at the end may be what its about.

        BTW my Dad would feed his pigs all the expired dairy products the local dairy (could see it from the barn) would have otherwise thrown out….Milk, cotage cheese, ice cream mix…we would dump it in barrells…in summer it would ferment…(insert apprapriate smells here) I think the pigs became alchoholic!

        • We add yogurt to our tanks of dairy. The yogurt helps to culture the whole tank which makes the dairy more digestible. It also prevents bad bacteria and molds from growing. I don’t know of any alcohols made from dairy. Anyone know of any? Potatoes, molasses, fruit and grains I know are made into a variety of alcohols.

          • Tom Y says:

            Probably wasnt the milk that fermented into booze but the orange juice and sugared drinks that were also included…could see the bubbling up…A real nasty brew but the hogs loved it.

          • Brian Heyer says:

            The lactose in whey can be fermented, but its too dilute to draw commercial attention (about 3%, I think, compared to mid-teens % in fruits). However, using the surplus heat thrown off by a dairy plant’s refrig units to run the alcohol still… extra single-cell protein (yeastie bodies) in the spent mash… hmmm….

  8. Bethany says:

    I’ve read your thoughts on leaving boars intact and your opinion on their flavor at different ages, but I wonder, are you certain that you and your family can smell and/or taste taint? Maybe I missed that somewhere. I am super sensitive to taint, as is my mother, but no one else in our family (blood and not) can smell it – which is just fascinating considering how overpowering the scent is to those of us unlucky enough to detect it!

  9. Mercy says:

    Question about boar taint. I am new to hog raising – have raised and processed one litter, did the clipping of needle teeth and castrating as conventional wisdom dictates, but now that I’ve been doing this a little while and am building some of my own confidence with pigs, I’m wondering if I can really do it a bit more kindly. Our boar is now about 2 years old, a Poland China/Yorkshire cross. He has the most lovely, friendly, kind disposition of any of the dozen or so pigs we’ve had. I don’t notice ANY odor about him at all. The pigs’ pens only stink when they get wet (spill their water, or rain). The Ma is of uncertain lineage, bought her from a nice old gentleman intending to eat her but ended up deciding to do the raising thing and bought Pa from a quality breeder. If I don’t notice any taint or odor about them, other than wet mucky places, do you think I have a good chance to let the little fellow escape the insult of castration? If I process between 5 and 5-1/2 months?

    • Mercy says:

      oops should read “little fellowS” – the babies, not Pa….

    • The probability is that they don’t have taint as studies have shown that taint is found in only a minority. Most market age intact males don’t have taint. But that is all probabilities and no guarantee. The only way to know for sure is to raise boars up to market age and eat them. You can take a wee bite and taste your boar, provided you are indeed able to taste/smell taint – about 25% of the population can’t. Raising them on pasture with a high fiber, low corn/soy diet pushes the odds in your favor.

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