I'm paranoid about boar taint in our pork from our newly processed 9 month old boar.
When I warm the fat, I can smell a musky/masculine/urine type odor. To me it's unpleasant, but also faint - I have to be looking for it to detect it (except when I roasted the cured bacon - then I could easily smell it - but when I cooked the bacon I didn't). Nobody else in the family has shown any signs they detect it or mind the products.
Anyway, I've been doing some research on the causes of boar taint. It's caused by 3 chemicals - 2 are from the breakdown of tryptophan and make the meat smell like feces, tho some say it smells floral in small doses and they actually use them in some perfumes. They are skatole and indole (tho some sources say skatole is a type of indole so maybe that's just 1?) They are mildly toxic, but probably not in the amounts that would be in a meal of pork.
The third is androstenone, and is the result of the male hormones in the boar - and it makes the fat smell like urine/musk. It's in the blood but also concentrated in the fat. Some think it's mildly aphrodesic.
I've read that if the meat will have boar-taint, the pig (when he's alive) will smell as well. We have one male piglet (well, 4 months now and already old enough to be sexually active) that smells like this boar taint, I've never noticed that the other pigs smell, tho when they spray it has the odor. The androstenone is important for breeding - the smell of it is what makes the sows stand for the boars, so it seems most successful boars would need some of it at the right moments. Maybe the taint happens when the boars make too much or make it all the time instead of as needed? Or maybe less successful boars are better to eat?
My pig's meat does not smell like feces at all. But it does have a faint boar-urine odor, but I think I'm the only one that can smell it.
I made bacon from the belly of the boar, and cold I didn't smell it, warmed I did, cooking it I only smelled it faintly and in the finished product I do not smell it tho it has a stronger meaty flavor, but maybe that's just because it's pasture-raised pork bacon. I did one slab unsmoked and we'll smoke the other slab and see what difference that makes. My family will happily eat this bacon, tho it turned out a little salty, which is not the pig's fault.
I didn't leave enough fat for good breakfast sausage. I overestimated how much fat I'd already put in the bag and then took the belly back out when I decided it was thick enough to make into bacon after all (and it was). So it was closer to 15% fat than the ideal 30% fat. The family ate both batches of breakfast sausage I made without complaint, tho I didn't find them that appealing, tho the odor was very faint. I've read that mexican-type sausages cover the smell of boar taint and are generally better accepted than other types of sausage. I'm going to try some chorizo, I think. I'm also curious about Chinese recipes and whether marinating it for 12 hours will draw the flavor out of the meat, tho if it's in the fat it may well not work. Some marinades use buttermilk or yogurt, which they say cleanses the meat of impurities, so that may be another interesting project - Indian cooking uses them a lot.
When we had our bull calf butchered the butcher gave us back the testicles, I guess some folks eat them. They smelled very strongly of this same odor. (the dog ate them with happiness) I guess if people enjoy them they wouldn't be bothered by this type of boar taint at all.
Home-raised meat does taste different than store meat. Different foods, better health, etc. concentrate some flavors, change them. In some taste-tests some consumers preferred the store meat to pastured & grass-fed, I guess because it was closer to what they were used to. So I'm not even sure if all of what I'm tasting is really boar taint or just stronger-tasting meat from a pastured, well-fed animal.
Does it taste good? If so, eat it. If its pasture raised, you know it's better for you so what is there to worry about. That being said, if you're really concerned, castration isn't nearly as difficult as it may seem.
We don't castrate and we sell the meat to thousands of customers from hundreds of boars a year. I tested progressively older boars by slaughter and cook over a period of years. Boar taint is caused by genetics, management and feed issues. All can be used to manage it. Pasturing and high fiber diets help reduce taint. Note that only about 75% of the human population can taste (smell) taints. Read here for our experience and research on boar taint:
Most boars don't have taint at slaughter age. Our boars don't even have it after eight years of age and while being active with females right up to the last hour before slaughter. BUT to be sure if your genetics, management and feed are an okay pattern not producing taint you'll need to do some testing. It isn't too hard but does take some time and diligence. Have a large group of people taste test. Note that the taints are strongest in the fat rather than the lean.
The other thing to know on taint is that there are other kinds of taint that any meat can have which get confused with boar taint. Improper kill, chill, handling, etc.
Walter - can you expand on other forms of teint?
We home kill as we feel it is less stressful for the pig who is not moved offsite or subjected to a new environment or people.
Do you think that a stressed pig at kill will pump out stress hormones ( especially a boar) that will result in meat teint.
There is a lot written about boar teint and that some people detect it whilst others do not. I feel that boar teint may be related to a fiesty boear being stressed at time of kill.
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
posted 5 years ago
There are many types of taint that are blamed on boar taint through confusion:
Boar taint: the real thing - rare but real - most boars don't have it even as adults - comes in multiple chemical forms (two primary), shows at puberty in those few boar line that have it. Duroc is the most known for this but not all of those have it. Control with good genetics, high fiber feed, good management (very clean stalls or better yet pasture rotational grazing). Castration is the conventional solution but only helps with this form of real boar taint but new research is showing that isn't necessary. In Europe they are beginning to ban surgical castration and I suspect that will come to the USA so best to be ahead of the curve on this. Some sows of a specific breed in the Pacific have real boar taint. Note that boars grow faster and are more efficient at turning feed into meat than barrows (castrated males) and barrows are better than gilts so economically it is best to raise boars. Boars are leanest, gilts are fattest on that same spectrum in general - always exceptions but few.
Slaughter Stress: release of stress hormones such as adrenalin at slaughter caused by over excitation making for bad flavor in meat
Porcine Stress Syndrome (PSS): genetic predisposition plus stress at slaughter causes muscle to turn release water and make pork no good, grey, spongy, watery. Occasionally I've heard this confused with taint because of the stress relationship.
Blood Spot: Failure to quickly bleed such that blood pressure spikes breaking small capillaries in the meat, especially the hams. Unsightly but fine to eat. Possible that a high strung boar who gets slaughter stressed would be more likely to have this because the slaughterer might be hesitant to approach the stunned animal or may have inappropriately stunned and missed the blood release timing which is only about 30 seconds to commence to drop the blood pressure as the pH soars due to CO2 concentration build up causing the heart to speed up.
Blood Taint: Failure to bleed out fully leaves blood in meat which changes flavor of meat and makes it more prone to spoilage. Many people don't like the flavor. Others don't mind it. Caused by bad sticking, failure to hang upright to get the last blood, impatience, etc.
Temperature Abuse: Failure to get the animal heat out of the carcass quickly enough or failure to keep the meat cool enough during chilling, handling, storage, thawing such that rotting sets in. Don't eat as this could be a biological hazard - e.g., bacterial infestation and unsafe food.
The link below leads to an index of my various writings and research into the topic of taint for those who want to dig deeper:
Our pigs are killed by a chap who provides his services free to the community and he is eager to preserve the old French ways when each home killied a pig in rotation and sharing fresh meat ( pre- the days of freezers). We had an intact boar aged about 10 months and after he stunned the animal he immediateley castrated the animal before bleeding it out.It was a Culn Noir and we had no taint that we could detect. Last year we had one pig that we could not restrain that quickly after it had been stung. We had red spot and in parts an oily appearnace but the meat was very wet but turned out great hams, bacon and roasts.
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
posted 5 years ago
The immediate castration is one of the myths that I have indeed heard for preventing boar taint. It does nothing. The taint, if it is going to happen, is already present in the fat of the animal. Castrating after stunning will not change this. It is better to get on with the bleed process as that must happen quickly or you can get blood spotting. The reason there was no taint was simply there was no taint.
Thanks Walter. Yes I guess that a stressed animal may pump out cortisol and increase adrenal androgens but I can not see how such a signal and short time constant between stunning and stress reach the testes. We are talking about a few seconds between stunning and castration and the just a few more seconds before the BP is reduced at bleed out.
My guess is that there is no evidence to support that male hormones produced in the testes change either way if the animal is left intact or if it is castrated immediateley post stunning. Happy to read any papers or evidence to the contray though.
I believe trucking animals,if not necessary,i would avoid.stress of any kind is bad.i have borrowed a boar and now that he is done I will slaughter him sunday.he is 5-6 yrs old and 500-600lbs.we will see what the fella says about the meat.
I processed about 11boars last year. 10 of the we're on grass every day (mobile pig tractor) and fed non gmo feed since they were small. They were active with the ladies and took them an hour and a half away to be processed. However the butcher was temple grandin style and I delivered the day before so they settled down. They were tamworths.
Zero boar taint, I tested them all before selling and no complaints from any customers
The other one was 2 years old ANC someone else raised them. Boar taint bad on some meat. I only had him for a few weeks.
What's interesting is cooking with a microwave the boar taint came out horrendous, cooking on cast iron was a lot less.
Bacon and sausage was ok due to the curing I believe. But if you warmed up the sausage in the microwave the smell came out. I don't normally use the microwave except to warm, but this reinforced the difference in cooking processes
I have a question on boar taint. Or what I was told was boar taint. It was so bd I had the meat sent out for lab testing in Florida. The tests came out negative. They also tested for odor-to which they told me was none. The odor my male pigs exhibit is to smell like isopropyl alcohol while only being cooked. The flavor is good and very tender. These boars were pasture raised. We had them processed at two different places. The second place hung the meat longer and we found less of an odor with his meat. Does anyone have an idea what this could be? I'm perplexed.
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