Boar taint makes me faint

Have you ever eaten a piece of pork meat and got an awful taste from it? This awful taste or odour is known as boar taint.

Studies have shown that about 75% of consumers can taste boar taint. I believe I am part of that 75% as I cannot stand the taste of pork (especially boar taint) despite how delicious crispy roast pork belly may look or smell.

Roast Pork / Yum Cha (Dim Sum)

Roast Pork by Jeffrey Lee Licensed under Creative Commons

Boar taint is caused by the accumulation of Androstenone and Skatole in the fat of mainly entire (non-castrated) male pigs. Androstenone is a pheromone produced in the testes of  male pigs reaching sexual maturity and Skatole is found in both male and female pigs as it is a by-product of intestinal bacteria.

The pork industry have been trying to find ways to reduce boar taint to increase pork meat quality and consumption by consumers like me who dislike boar taint.

One method is to surgically or physically castrate male pigs. This procedure reduces boar taint and aggression in male pigs by removing the testes – the source of male sex hormone production. However, surgical castration can be quite a complex procedure that requires a trusty hand like a vet. It may also cause post-surgery infections, pain and stress which can compromise the castrated pig’s welfare.

animal diary science

Castrating a piglet by John Amis (UGA College of Ag) Licensed under Creative Commons

Luckily, researchers have developed a vaccine against boar taint called Improvac. Basically, the vaccine induces the pig’s immune system to generate antibodies against Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) – a hormone in the hypothalamus that regulates reproduction.

GnRH is responsible for inducing the release of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) from the anterior pituitary gland to stimulate the production of sex hormones (eg. testosterone, androstenone). So, by targeting GnRH, pork meat producers can target androstenone and address the issue of boar taint.

A study done by Bilskis et al. (2012) have proven that entire male pigs that receive the Improvac vaccine had reduced blood testosterone concentration, libido and volume of ejaculate.

So, it appears that the vaccine makes entire male pigs into sterile male pigs without the need to surgically remove their testes. But what sorcery is this?

Well, this sorcery is known as immunocastration which is a result of, in this case, the Improvac vaccine.

Improvac vaccine essentially reduces:

  1. GnRH production and release
  2. LH & FSH production and release
  3. Testicular size & function
  4. Sex hormone production (eg androstenone)

With the help of this vaccine, there is no need for complicated surgical procedures to castrate male pigs which means they don’t have to experience much pain or suffering associated with physical castration.

Not only is it a welfare-friendly option to immunocastrate male pigs, studies have shown that compared to physically castrated male pigs, immunocastrated male pigs are:

  • more efficient at converting feed to growth (more productive animals)
  • produce leaner meat (desirable meat trait)
  • have lower back fat (desirable meat trait)

So, maybe people like me will be able to enjoy eating pork and not worry about the awful taste of boar taint.

Also, perhaps, I will finally get a chance to enjoy and try all those mouth-watering, deliciously looking pork dishes!

3 Responses to “Boar taint makes me faint”

  1. tranv says:

    Lucy: Thank you! I think it may just be that I just don’t like the taste of pork in generally haha. But boar taint sure is a very nasty taste for your taste buds.

    bjrule: So lucky! I hope you will never get the unfortunate chance of getting to taste it. It’s quite awful!

  2. bjrule says:

    Really interesting post, I can’t say that I have ever tasted it though

  3. Lucy says:

    Hey really interesting post. I think you’ve finally explained why the only time I have eaten port (many years ago now) I had to spit it out as it was so revolting I thought I may vomit! I personally don’t care if they never fix it, as from that experience I have never felt the urge to eat pork, but I can see why the port industry may want to prevent it. Cheers