A Tale of Two Testes: The Boar Taint That Ain’t

‘Tis the season – for pork, that is. Still following a tradition of starting piglets in the spring and early summer (raising them through the warm months, and finishing or fattening them on the abundance of fall), many local Adirondack farmers are now harvesting and selling their hogs for pork, ourselves included. Fall is one of the best times for consumers to fill their freezer with a whole of half hog, raised and butchered as they like. Probably no surprise here, but half of those hogs are female, half male. And of those males, probably most are castrated. But our male pigs are not. If you find yourself asking “so?” then you probably aren’t familiar with “boar taint.” When we first started raising pigs, anyone with even third-hand hog-raising experience would tell us “you can’t eat a boar!”, adding that “it’ll taste like [I kid you not] piss” or other choice words. Why? The male hormones produced by a boar can make the meat taste so foul and rank as to make it virtually inedible. Hence the long-standing practice of castrating male piglets – making a cut into either side of the scrotum, pulling out the testicles and cutting them off and out. This transforms the “boar” into a “barrow” (the bull/steer distinction of the porcine world). Plus, many say, barrows grow faster than boars. As it turns out, taint ain’t so simple. (Taint/t’ain’t – nice wordplay, right?) Yes, boar taint is real, and when present, it makes the meat s

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4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Testes: The Boar Taint That Ain’t

  1. The issue of castration is becoming a greater and greater one. Some of your data may be skewed a bit however. In regards to a boar growing faster than a barrow, the benefit is not gained in growth rate when compared directly to barrows, it is gained in Feed Conversion, thus presenting a economically viable aspect to production. (Especially with corn prices we have seen in recent years). There are also products on the market that will negate the effects of the boar taint via immunization. These immunocatstration methods have become very popular over seas where surgical “traditional” castration methods have been banned.

    1. Hi Jared, yes, a useful clarification on growth and feed efficiency. Boars growing faster wouldn’t be a good thing if for instance they consumed twice as much feed (as barrows) to do so.

      Immunocastration certainly fits the bill of being a more humane method. But again, it might simply be a cost that the smaller scale producer can avoid if they can find the right genetics mixed with good management. And for the direct-marketer, it could be something that some consumers wouldn’t want in their pork production (say, along the lines of rBST in dairy cattle).

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