Tainted Big Pharma

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 Facts
Taint 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.

In a totally related irony, it is our dear friends at Pfizer that make little blue pills for erectile dysfunction. Our big boar Spot has no problem with this either.

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

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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40 Responses to Tainted Big Pharma

  1. Anonymous says:

    ‘Balls!’ said the Queen, if I had a pair I’d be King!

  2. Anonymous says:

    419Why would the FEA aapprove this. It could hurt you if you eat it right? Just like the antibiotics. My son’s doctor stopped giving him antibiotics for ear infections because they were not doing the job. That said I think it is all the stuff they inject into the meat from the market today. This is scary and I am glad I am raising my own meat now.

  3. ChristyACB says:

    My goodness, this makes no sense! Boar taint can’t even be tasted by many folks and it is totally easy to figure out if your breeder stock is going to have it by eating one of them in the first round of breeding! Argh.

    What next? A vaccine against ugly?

    And that accidental injection stuff. Holy macaroni! You wouldn’t get anyone in my family near anything that would cause that in them! What, only post-menopause women should give the shot? Have any of those idiots ever tried to give a shot to a pig (or horse or cow or pony) that doesn’t want one! LOL.

  4. Zambini says:

    Now I know why sometimes we all run screaming from the kitchen when we fry the bacon! Some of the bacon fat is so bad we can’t even save it. We never seem to notice the taste in the meat, but the bacon fat and smell of it cooking is gross. Thanks for solving one of life’s mysteries for us!

  5. Zambini, Identify the lines of pigs where the frying fat smells bad vs good and you are well on the way to figuring out how to breed your own taint free pigs. Once you’ve done that you can avoid the castration and vaccine.

  6. Larbo says:

    Keep up the great work, Walter! Your website is the single best source I know for information about boar taint.

    As you say, this new drug is just a chemical quick-fix for something that 1) is not that big a problem, and 2) can be dealt with by old-fashioned means of selective breeding and controlling the diet before slaughter.

    Thanks again!

  7. Zambini says:

    Thanks for the tip Walter. Unfortunately, they are not yet our own. That will come when we sell this farm and get the new one. My husband wants pigs, but I wasn’t ready for that leap yet. Chickens and cows were enough work for me.

    We have gotten local ferrel hogs though, never any problem with that meat. It’s also very yummy!! So, until we exit Oklahoma, I will keep your advice in my “need to know for next farm” section of my memory banks, and definitely put it to use at a later date!

    Boy, that wild boar was the best pork we’ve ever eaten. If we can duplicate that, I’d even forego the chickens and cows!

    Hope you get around to making those donuts soon.

  8. ~annie says:

    I’m a “city girl” myself, but I really enjoy reading your blog and I’ve learned so much from all the good information you share. Thanks!

  9. Kristin says:

    My family also appreciates all the research you have done on boar taint.

    We raised our first pigs last fall. 2 boys and a girl. We did put them in the freezer at about 5-1/2 months so no boar taint just due to age, I’d say. But when I mentioned to the guy that does the killing/gutting at our butcher he said, “Those boars will be tough!” It is just unfounded bias. NO pig butchered at 5-1/2 months would ever be tough!

    “Old timers” around here also told us we had to raise the pigs up off the ground if we wanted tender meat. Why would we do that? I can get that sort of meat at the grocery store! We don’t like mushy, flavorless meat.

    My sister works for Pfizer. I’ll have to see if I can influence this vaccine business (ha, right)!!

  10. The government spends so much time trying to protect me from things that I’m not afraid of… I wish they’d direct their energies to saving us from the pharmaceutical companies. They don’t even bother using common sense when they invent a new wonder cure. Haven’t they ever considered cause and effect?

  11. mark says:

    ookaaay! and so i eat this vaccinated pork and the vaccine is now in me so will that make me go sterile too? will it interfe with my wifes pregnancy? what about our kids growing up all their lives eating that stuff? guess this is one more reason we got to stick to raising our own meat. dont even suggest that i trust the fda to test this stuff given their track record

  12. Anonymous says:

    I hadn’t realized how hairy pigs are. Is that because he is a boar? Is it a breed thing?

  13. Andrea says:

    I like how the boar is so modestly covering his ass with his tail. Is that symbolic or what?!

  14. I’m most familiar with our pigs so I can only directly comment on them. Based on photos I’ve seen hair does vary with the breed, climate and other factors. Our pigs shed some of their hair in the warmer weather. Pigs that I’ve seen from further south that were kept in climate controlled barns were much less hairy.

    Realize that the naked pigs seen at fairs, show circuits and in the media have been shaved. Imagine that, shaving a pig, full body! I think I have better things to do with my time and it is hard to imagine getting them to hold still long enough to do that once never mind regularly. Then imagine the stubble…

  15. Adam A. says:

    I found this on wikipedia about the boar bristles.

    The hair of the boar was often used for the production of the toothbrush until the invention of synthetic materials in the 1930s.[25] The hair for the bristles usually came from the neck area of the boar. While such brushes were popular because the bristles were soft, this was not the best material for oral hygiene as the hairs were slow to dry and usually retained bacteria. Today’s toothbrushes are made with plastic bristles.
    Boar hair is used in the manufacture of boar-bristle hairbrushes, which are considered to be gentler on hair—and much more expensive—than common plastic-bristle hairbrushes. However, among shaving brushes, which are almost exclusively made with animal fibers, the cheaper models use boar bristles, while badger hair is used in much more expensive models.[26]
    Boar hair is used in the manufacture of paintbrushes, especially those used for oil painting. Boar bristle paintbrushes are stiff enough to spread thick paint well, and the naturally split or “flagged” tip of the untrimmed bristle helps hold more paint.
    Despite claims that boar bristles have been used in the manufacture of premium dart boards for use with steel-tipped darts, these boards are, in fact, made of other materials and fibers – the finest ones from sisal rope.
    In many countries, boar are farmed for their meat, and in countries such as France, for example, boar (sanglier) may often be found for sale in butcher shops or offered in restaurants

  16. HelenG says:

    So in som countries they are purposefully raising boars for the taste. Interesting how taste varies with cuisine of culture. My thought would be that those people would find american pork bland if what they are trying to do is make a stronger flavor by using boars. I wonder if they have been pourposefully breeding up the taint in those pigs or something else? So castration or vaccination would be counter productive for them.

  17. What will they think of next? A pill for everything. Just wait till that commercial comes on TV and Harriet goes to the doctor asking for that. I can just imagine the look on the doctors face as he looks that up in the PDR.

  18. Mellifera says:


    Way to do some homework and solve the problem instead of kvitchin’ about it. : )

  19. Brandy says:

    I find this whole interfering with sex hormones rather scary. What if that gets injected like they warn about. Will that sterilize men? Will it cause cancer? Will it sterilize women? Will it make babies in eurtero be sex changed maybe turning boy babies into girl babies? What effect will this have on muscle mass? Will it make pigs grow slower and not gain as much? Will it make men who get accidentally injected weaker? What about people who eat the meat will they lose moscle mass? Will it cause testicular cancer? Reading the click through articles from europe is not reassuring at all. Pitzfer is just leaving me with more questions on their sight.

  20. Anonymous says:

    In the NYT “Free-Range Trichinosis”


    And some interesting comments:
    misstatement of facts, National Pork Board paid for study

    read more here:



  21. Anonymous says:

    First commenter: I always heard it this way (should be read aloud for full effect of the play on words): “Balls!” said the Queen. “If I had to, I’d be King. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to.”

  22. Anonymous says:

    Someone needs to update wikipedia… it looks like their article on boar taint was written by Pfizer

  23. Fred says:

    Well, I just slaughtered one of your boars that I had bought in the winter. He was 300 pounds live and 206 hanging. Tasted delicious. We roasted him for our big family gathering. Lots of left overs even with over 250 guests and they all commented on how great he tasted. He was not castrated and there was no taint at all. Just delicious meat. Thanks for all the great info and for your great pigs. I will order another boar piglet next year.

  24. Fredrick Wathers says:

    Good information. I had wondered what to do with this issue. To cut or not. I don’t like the idea. I’m going to try osme boars.

  25. John Appleton says:

    Well I have to report that I have now taste tested our first non castrated boar pigs and they were delicious. No signs of taint. These were yorkies the big whites. I am very pleased with how the meat came out. This is also the first year we pastured intensively. We also fed a little bagged feed and lots of garden stuff and the pigs have been getting apples for the last moth. Thanks for saving us from having to do castration. Next springs litter we won’t castrate at all. Is int it funny how these myths become so engrained?

  26. Mark says:

    Add my name to the long list of people saying thank you to you Walter for all of the great stuf you share both here on your blog and in the homestead forum. I have found many of your little tips invaluable and you are not trying to promote a book or something so I know it is from the heart that you write. Wish I were closer and could help with building on your Big PRoject!

  27. Erica Cummington says:

    Thanks for this info. A friend in another discussion brough up your sight. I’m going to try not castrating a boar and see how he comes out in our next summers batch.

  28. John Appleton says:

    I too am disgusted with the corruption of the swinging door between Big Farmacutical Corps and Government Lobby Bureaucrat Jobs.

  29. Madella says:

    Keep up the good reporting. I used to be scared of the issue of boar taint but after reading your earlier posts a few years ago I slaughtered to boars and they didnt have any taint smell to them at all. No I dont castrate my males. More humane and I am thinking you are right they grow faster and bigger too.

  30. BD Hurer says:

    Big Pig Balls!!!

  31. douglas says:

    > Will it make babies in eurtero be sex changed maybe turning boy
    > babies into girl babies?

    Na, maybe just less frilly dillies on the guys, less vibrato among the pedundae class.

    Hey! who knows?

  32. Farmerbob1 says:

    Walter, the link to noboartaint.org seems to no longer exist.

  33. Fred Harrington says:

    Sometimes I just don’t know what to think when I read articles like this. If only humans looked out for each other rather than trying to score a buck.

  34. jessica l says:

    Thank you! I have been finding more and more in my limited history with farming that common practice is not always right. This subject is just the last one I have had a moment of “um, I wonder if…” I am so lucky to live in these times where there are resources like this readily available.
    Also I would like thank you for describing your method of ‘sampling’.
    Being a very small farm just starting you just don’t know how much it means to pick up others research to help build mine on.
    I would tend to agree with the research noting that Duroc would have a higher chance of taint. Just by the breeds more assertive nature seems probable while the pink mix hogs are much more docile and not as smart or at least not as driven.

  35. Carrie Timlin says:

    We are preparing to send in a 3 year old Kune Kune boar. I’m trying not to be super worried about taint. Planning on pasturing him alone on 1/4 acre about 400 ft away from any females. Do you think this is far enough?

    • I have no experience with KuneKune. What I’ve found is that separation from sows does not stop taint and exposure to sows does not increase taint. If I were to do separation with that purpose I would put the boar up wind of the sow and out of sight a double fence away. Cross wind would likely work too. The research shows high fiber in the feed and clean, not living in filth, are the important factors after genetics.

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