Boar Balls on a Cold Winter’s Day
Those are a set of bowling ball size ornaments on the back end of a fully equipped north bound boar. With a harem of 30 ladies to keep happy they aren’t just decorations. Of course he’s got balls since he’s a working boar. What surprises visitors to our farm is that all the male pigs here have their balls. We don’t castrate the pigs we raise because we have no boar taint in our herds. This saves the little piglets a lot of pain on top of the fact that castration is a chore that nobody here enjoys, pigs included.
Big Pharma is trying to convince farmers and consumers that uncastrated male pigs taste bad. This is not true – The reality is that real, independent scientific research shows that only a very small minority of (older) boars have taint – the vast majority of market age boars do not have taint so castration and the new Pfizer vaccine Improvac are unnecessary.
Boar Taint FactsTaint is an unpleasant, musky urine like flavor and smell in the meat that is caused by two chemicals, skatole and androstenone, which can be found in both male pigs and occasionally in female pigs (gilts & sows). Taint is primarily deposited in the fat and most noticeable when cooking so it is simple to test for by using a soldering iron on a piece of fat after slaughter. About 25% of the human population can not detect taint so the taint tester needs to first be validated. I can detect taint as can my son. My wife can not.
According to some researchers, breeds such as the lighter colored ones like Yorkshire are very low in taint while some of the newer commercial breeds are higher in taint. Boar taint is caused by poor genetics, over crowding, poor sanitation, low fiber diets, feed choices, management issues and other problems.
Slaughtering pigs at a normal market age and weight also virtually always prevents boar taint. We have tested many hundreds of boars up to 30 months of age on our farm without ever finding any taint in them. Castration isn’t necessary so we don’t do it any longer for our herds. If a farmer has a herd where boar taint is present, the taint can be bred out of the pigs and improved with better management practices.
Boar tainted meat is traditionally used trimmed to the lean and combined with fat from beef or sows for making spicy sausages, pepperoni and such which mask the flavor. Old country, low-tech solutions to the occasional strong tasting boar. Some people like the stronger flavor.
Over the years I’ve done a lot of research on this topic here at our farm. Our herd doesn’t have the boar taint, we don’t castrate and the pork from our boars sells like crazy to individuals and in stores and restaurants. It would be a shame to waste money on an unnecessary vaccine injecting extra chemicals into the meat. For more details of my research on this topic see:
Boart Taint Articles
which will give you a list of articles about boar taint and lead to further scientific research on the topic of boar taint.
I would strongly suggest that farmers test for boar taint in their swine breeding herds before they spend a lot of money on anti-taint vaccines for their hogs. In the unlikely event they do have taint, then they should look into how to improve their feeding, management and genetics to get rid of it before resorting to costly vaccines that will be necessary for all future pigs if they travel down that path. Let’s humanely raise pigs with NoWeirdStuff in them.
Of course, none of this is going to make money for Big Pharma. If consumers and farmers know the truth then it is hard to justify the high cost of vaccination against a non-problem. Who’s going to be willing to fork over money for unnecessary vaccines unless they’re properly scared into wanting it? Who wants to pay the resulting higher price for food that has been injected with one more chemical? Not me!
One interesting question is that it is not clear if Pfizer’s new anti-taint vaccine Improvac will protect against both kinds of taint since taint is actually caused by two different chemicals, one produced in the testes & adrenal glands (androstenone) and the other taint caused by bacteria in the small intestine (skatole). From what I’ve read, Improvac merely suppresses testicular function and thus only protects against the androstenone from the testes. This ignores the androstenone produced in the adrenal glands above the kidneys and it ignores the skatole induced taint. Thus the vaccine is not 100% effective at preventing “boar taint”. I’m sure they’ll have appropriate disclaimers that keep them from having to be liable for those few remaining cases of taint on farms that depend on their vaccine.
Another interesting point is that when giving injections it is not all that rare for farmers to accidentally inject themselves. In a report by the European Medicine’s Agency it says:
“Accidental self- injection may produce similar effects in people to those seen in pigs. The risk of these effects is greater after a second or subsequent accidental injection than after a first injection.“
After a lot of Googling around I also found this expanded a bit on Pfizer’s web site:
“accidental self-injection may produce similar effects in people to those seen in pigs. These may include a temporary reduction in sexual hormones and reproductive functions in both men and women and an adverse effect on pregnancy. The risk of these effects will be greater after a second or subsequent accidental injection than after a first injection. The product label advises anyone who has received an accidental self-injection to seek medical attention immediately and not to use the product in the future.“
Update 2014: The company changed their name to Zoetisus and has this newer page which says:
“The prescribing veterinarian is responsible for informing those who administer the product of its proper use and associated risks. In the event of accidental self injection, reproductive physiology of both men and women, as well as pregnancy, may be adversely affected.“
Apparently even women are susceptible to this issue. So if you use Improvac I would strongly suggest that you have already had any children you plan before using this product – You may not get another chance.
Another big problem I see with this vaccination is that these same Big Pharma companies may covertly, or overtly, aid the animal liberation and animal rights groups in pushing through laws banning castration. Big Pharma would benefit from a ban on castration because that will further their sales agenda and profits since so many people believe the Boar Taint Myth. While I am against the practice of castration I am even more against governmental interference in our lives. Castration is unnecessary but we need to let education and the market decide, not Big Corp lobbyists and government bureaucrats.
And if that wasn’t more than you wanted to hear about boar balls, click through to the links for long evenings of reading…
Outdoors: 29°F/19°F Partially Sunny, Snow drifting down all day
Farm House: 35°F/33°F
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/55°F