Various European Union countries are discussing stopping the castration of pigs. European researchers are exchanging information. In the Netherlands, Wageningen University and Research Centre has been studying this issue for five years now. According to Dr Gé Backus, the research’s project leader, possible side-effects are known as are their solutions. An important discovery is the fact that the consumption of meat from boars (uncastrated pigs) does not lead to changes in consumption.
Dr Gé Backus says this can be explained by the fact that flavour is much more important to consumers than smell. “When assessing quality, consumers look at a number of factors. Flavour is by far the most important of these. In general, consumers can smell boar taint when they cook the meat. But the majority experience no difference between the meat of castrated and uncastrated animals.” There are also major differences between consumers says Backus. Some smell nothing, whilst others are more sensitive to the smell.
Results from the consumer study included the following:
- Consumers can smell boar taint.
- Consumers assess meat on the basis of different quality criteria.
- People do not become more sensitive to boar taint over time or after smelling it more often.
- The differences between consumers are bigger than the differences between pigs.
- To consumers, flavour is more important than smell.
Prevention is better than the cure
Dr Gé Backus points out that prevention is the best way to stop consumers being confronted with boar taint. “A good, reliable method (the human nose) has been developed for recognising meat with boar taint on the slaughter line. If the checks are properly conducted, the smell is a non-issue and it is all about the principal reason for purchase: flavour.”