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Early and reliable detection of boar taint and genetic predisposition (BOARTAINT)

Main research question/goal
This research focuses on the understanding of the predisposition and prevalence of boar taint in entire male pigs. The main aim is to develop and evaluate strategies to reduce or even eliminate boar taint. Explored research questions are: is early detection of boar taint in live animals possible? Can we reduce boar taint by altering management strategies? How do we evaluate different post mortem boar taint detection methods?
Boar taint is an off-odour released when consuming meat of some entire male pigs. The main components are androstenone (sex pheromone) and skatole (a fermentation product of tryptophan). The purpose of this study is to find a reliable system to reduce the occurrence of boar taint or detect it in a timely way, so that entire male pigs can be deployed for meat production.

Research approach
This research is based on three strategies: we try to uncover and validate predictors for early detection of boar taint based on physiological parameters (e.g. testes volume), the evaluation of social and sexual behaviour and based on skin lesions and fouling scores, all measured at several time points during fattening. We evaluate the effectiveness of altering management strategies such as feeding, hygiene and lowering slaughter weight for three different breeds on the prevalence of boar taint. We compare different post mortem boar taint detection methods: chemical analysis of the boar taint components, sensory evaluation by experts and consumers of meat and/or fat samples. Furthermore, sniffer pigs were trained to detect boar taint in meat and fat samples.

The results from this study provide a better understanding of the factors affecting boar taint, but reduction or elimination of boar taint remains complex. We found a positive correlation between aggressive behaviour, testes length and testes volume on almost all time points on the one hand and the level of skatole in back fat on the other hand. This knowledge needs further investigation to serve as a practical advice to identify these animals prone to develop boar taint, thus enabling specific measures (e.g. immunocastration, early slaughtering) to prevent these animals from developing boar taint.
Adaptation of feed or improvement of hygiene of the animals did not reduce boar taint. Prevalence of boar taint was dependent on the breed (Piétrain, Large White, Belgian Landrace stress negative) and slaughter weight (50, 70, 90 and 110 kg). In this regard it is important to note that the effectiveness of reducing slaughter weight depends on the breed.
Boar taint prevalence varied strongly between the used post mortem detection methods and correlations between these methods were rather low. The sniffer pigs were successfully trained and were able to detect boar taint in cold fat samples.

External partner(s)
NoFima As
Date:1 Jun 2005 →  9 Sep 2009