Boar taint and also the castration controversy Adapting pig production to customer demands for animal welfare is among the main difficulties for the europe pork it is provided chain – and also one the the biggest questions in this area is whether, and how, to prevent surgical castration.

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11 July 2019
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By: Matthew Wedzerai

Surgical castration of male pigs is generally performed to avoid boar taint, or the attack odour the pork uncovered in sexually mature boars. Because of its painful and also stressful nature, the practice has been receiving criticism from international organisations for pet protection and welfare. As a result, alternate strategies to alleviate boar taint are being deployed. However, this strategies lug with them some pros and also cons, and also the topic has been the topic of lot debate amongst stakeholders involved in the pork chain. Developing entire males is more profitable and efficient than elevating castrates, however whole males negatively affect meat quality as result of the visibility of boar taint (Lundström et al., 2009).

ReferencesReferencesALCASDE reportAndresen Ø.European CommissionEurogroup because that AnimalsEuropean Food safety and security Authority (EFSA)Jensen B.B.Lundström K. And also Zamaratskaia G.Wageningen UniversityZamaratskaia G. And also Squires E.J.
(2009)Study top top the improved methods for animal friendly production, in specific on alternatives to the castration the pigs and also on options to the dehorning cattle.. SANCO18:1-65
(2006)Boar taint connected compounds: Androstenone/skatole/other substances.. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica48(1):5
(2019)Establishing best practices on the production, the processing and also the marketing that meat from uncastrated pigs or pigs vaccinated versus boar taint (immunocastrated).
(2004)Welfare aspects of the castration that piglets. Scientific Report that the scientific Panel for pet Health and Welfare ~ above a inquiry from the Commission related to Welfare elements of the Castration the Piglets (Question N8 EFSA-Q-2003-091). The EFSA Journal91:1-18
(2006)Prevention that boar taint in pig production. Determinants affecting the level the skatole.. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica48(1):6
(2006)Moving towards taint-free pork – alternatives to surgical castration.. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica48(1):6
(2013)Results of the 5-year Dutch research programme 'Boars heading because that 2018'
(2009)Biochemical, nutritional and genetic results on boar taint in entire male pigs.. Animal3:1508-1521

What is boar taint?

Boar taint is a defect affecting particular sensory properties of meat (odour and also taste). It deserve to be discerned once the meat is cooking or eaten and is considered unpleasant by some consumers. Two main compounds space responsible for boar taint: androstenone and skatole. Androstenone is a masculine steroid pheromone when skatole is a by-product the tryptophan metabolism in the huge intestine (EFSA, 2004; Andersen, 2006). The much more mature the pig becomes, the an ext of this compounds space produced, particularly androstenone; this is the main reason castration is done. Dead body from whole males space not welcomed in many of the markets because of boar taint risk.

Boar taint is a defect affecting particular sensory nature of meat (odour and taste). It have the right to be discerned once the meat is cooked or eaten and also is thought about unpleasant by part consumers

The debate

Consumer perception

The main concerns driving the instance for ending surgical castration are a factor to consider for the pigs’ welfare – and also consumers’ tardy of just how castration affects this — and also the fact that boar taint can impact the taste and smell of meat. However, together an disability to the product, boar taint is additionally subjective: androstenone have the right to be detected by 90 percent the women but only 50 percent that men, which method many people’s taste choice is not impacted by boar taint. Some studies indicate that what you read is what you odor – definition that product information can impact consumers’ high quality perception (Wageningen University, 2013). In the same study, it was revealed that if they space not informed around boar taint, consumers’ views about the acceptance of castration vary widely. This prompts the question: because that those consumer who are not informed around boar taint, and are can not to finding it, does its existence make any difference to how they endure the product?

Who in the pork chain cares?

Similarly, is boar taint that equal problem to every the stakeholders in the pork chain? native a farmer’s point of view, rearing entire males could be a better prospect, as they reduce feed expenses due to much faster growth, they transform feed much more efficiently and also they create leaner carcasses contrasted to castrates (Lundström et al., 2009; Zamaratskaia and Squires, 2009). This method to farming would additionally probably you re welcome environmentalists that see much less nitrogen in manure from whole males contrasted to castrated males.

But, top top the various other hand, boars deserve to show an ext aggressive behaviour contrasted to castrated pigs which are much easier to manage, especially during transport and lairage (ALCASDE, 2009) and also usually results in fewer meat top quality defects such together PSE or DFD.

Pig welfare and also castration

It is well known that castration negative affects the welfare standing of the animals and society’s growing worry for animal is make a solid case for ending castration. But, looking in ~ it closely, it seems that the perception the castration is a negative thing overall is primarily driven through the lack of ache relief offered when conducting castration procedures on many farms. Together a result, together of 2019 Germany will certainly no longer allow castration without anaesthesia (Eurogroup because that Animals, 2018). Additionally, if the pigs are not given both anaesthesia and analgesia because that castration, that is unlikely that their welfare will be considerably improved. At the same time (using Germany as an example), this decision will also impact imports come the nation – negative affecting various other sectors in the pork chain.

By banning castration, the industry would be removing one source of pain and also distress that piglets room subjected to whilst additionally eliminating one of the techniques by which condition can gain into young pigs. However keeping males intact and growing lock to more heavier weights in ~ puberty also invites an ext aggressive behaviour towards each other, resulting in stress the might likewise jeopardise your welfare.

As that 2019 Germany will no longer enable castration without anaesthesia

Castration techniques other 보다 surgical

Surgical castration there is no anaesthesia or analgesia is a painful and stressful procedure, as shown by a collection of physiological and behavioural alters that are plainly indicative of pain and stress. The adhering to castration methods appear to be better, yet they are likewise not perfect.

Immunocastration: this is administered v the injection that a vaccine prior to slaughter, and also it inhibits testosterone secretion and testicular duty and development. This would reduce the pain and stress resulted in by operation castration on-farm i m sorry is mostly where the welfare concerns lie. Yet there is a sense of unease neighboring immunocastration, and there is part debate as to whether the injections execute not inflict pain and also stress.

Chemical castration: this consists of injecting chemicals leading to local damage of testicular tissue. In terms of welfare, that is daunting to draw definitive conclusions as further research is compelled to recognize whether this practice reasons pain (FAWEC, 2019). Complications might include injection-site lesions, handling stress to the pigs and also the danger of self-injection come the stockperson.

Alternative strategies to mitigate boar taint

Besides immunocastration and also chemical castration, other strategies exist which centre on breeding and nutrition – however what are their pros and also cons?

Breeding and also genetics

Selection: breeding values on androstenone and also skatole can be estimated. Preferential choice on those families that have low levels of these hormonal commodities can minimize the incidence that boar taint. Also, avoiding breeds through high boar taint such together Duroc, and also choosing breeds through a reduced incidence that boar taint, such together the Pietrain breed, can help reduce the prevalence.

Breeding females (sperm sexing): this technique consists the inseminating sows v sexed sperm so the they develop only woman offspring. While sperm sexing might prove to be a good solution in the long term, the is no yet viable in practice. Over there are likewise ethical concerns.

Gene-editing: pigs might be gene-edited so the they carry out not reach sexual maturity, and also this might reduce the incidence of androstenone and skatole in male pigs. This method is still being researched (although it has actually been applied to other concerns in pig production).

The Pietrain breed has actually been associated with lower incidences of boar taint in meat produced from this breed


It helps to build a diet that’s certain to your breed and also to protect against supplements the are well-known to boost boar taint. Because that example, skatole, and in some instances androstenone, deserve to be lessened by transforming the tryptophan levels in swine diets. Feeding chicory (inulin) has actually a far-ranging effect in reducing skatole level in the fat.

Farm-level management

Same-sex groups: ensures all boars are encountered at once, make testing much more efficient. However on the other hand this might be daunting for farmers that raise their pigs in blended groups.

Low-stress environments: enhanced stress has actually been linked with greater levels that taint.

Reducing competition at feeding: this reduce stress, for this reason boar taint – but installing extra feeding tools is costly.

Slaughterhouses management

Uncastrated pigs: systems to finding boar taint deserve to be applied at the slaughterhouses, where carcasses that test positive deserve to be quantified and managed.

Vaccinated pigs: equipment to inspect assurances from farmers the pigs vaccinated versus it do not in reality contain boar taint.

Penalties for boar taint: wherein these could be applied, they need to be linked with hopeful incentives come encourage farmers to raise entire males.

Legislation and outlook in the EU

Animal welfare regarding surgical castration has actually been a longstanding policy of the EU. Since 1 January 2012 the european Commission (EC) has actually mandated the surgical castration the pigs must be carry out with lengthy analgesia and/or anaesthesia – however this has actually not been completed to date in part European countries. The EC has additionally stated the surgical castration the pigs need to be exit by 1 January 2018 – this has not been accomplished either.

However, the EC’s recurring intention is to carry surgical castration to an finish by make the following tools available:

mutually recognised techniques for the assessment of boar taint;European standardised methods for the measure up of each of the compound responsible for boar taint; rapid-detection approaches for boar taint in ~ slaughter plants; reduction of boar taint compound by pig reproduction and/or management and also feeding; reliable management of entire males throughout rearing, transport and also at slaughter, come minimise sexual and aggressive behaviours.

In addition, the EC is functioning to for sure a sustainable and competitive pig meat chain in the EU. That is hoped that a european partnership top top pig castration, supported and also funded by the european Commission, will be developed in order to:

ensure the acceptance of assets from pigs no surgically castrated by authorities and also consumers in the european Union (but also in third-country markets); agree on a common meaning of boar taint;perform or name: coordinates research and development;develop information and also training because that farmers and other stakeholders in the pork chain.

Eurogroup for Animals

In line through the european Commission’s objectives on castration outlined above, Eurogroup for animals (EA), v its flagship project End Pig Pain, invites individuals to sign a petition questioning the EU to support a EU-wide ban on operation piglet castration by 2024. Upon getting to 1 million signatures, the petition will certainly be handed end to the europe Commission.

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Final remarks

Adopting the idea of finishing castration counts on the market you’re in – all markets are totally different and also have distinctive products. The UK and Ireland, because that example, room running entire-male herds.Consumer demand and preference are the main factors of even if it is adopting the rearing of entire males will certainly be achieved. Some professionals have stated that to reduce boar taint ~ above a handy level takes a multi-factorial method whereby every stakeholder in the pork chain have to play a part.New technology such together gene editing might offer a better solution to operation castration – however, that is applicability is tho under review. To ensure a sustainable pig-meat chain, strategies have to be developed to mitigate the link responsible for boar taint, promote production and also management equipment that minimise sexual and aggressive action in whole males and develop an globally recognised an approach for detecting boar taint in ~ slaughter plants the is quick, easy, cheap and reliable.In the end, the financial benefits of the techniques to finish boar taint must be convincing to the stakeholders involved.