Women recruited to test boar meat

The study wants to determine whether boar meat tastes better or worse than regular pork from castrated pigs.  |  Chris McCullough photo

Women are being used in the study because they are said to have a more sensitive palate when it comes to consuming boar meat

Female consumers across Europe have been asked to assess the taste of boar burgers compared to meat from castrated pigs.

The research is designed to evaluate whether boar meat tastes better or worse than regular pork from castrated male pigs.

Researchers chose only women for the taste tests because women are said to have a more sensitive palate for boar meat. That may make them more able to detect boar taint, an offensive odour or taste sometimes given off during cooking or eating of pork or pork products derived from non-castrated male pigs once they reach puberty.

Studies show about 75 percent of consumers are sensitive to boar taint, so pork producers work to control it.

The latest research was carried out on 476 female consumers from Denmark, France, Italy and Poland.

The group evaluated a total of eight meat burgers from boars with varying levels of skatole and androstenone. Boar taint is caused by the accumulation of androstenone and skatole in the fat of male pigs. Androstenone (a male pheromone) is produced in the testes when male pigs reach puberty.

Skatole (a byproduct of intestinal bacteria, or bacterial metabolite of the amino acid tryptophan) is produced in both male and female pigs. However, levels are much higher in intact boars because testicular steroids inhibit its breakdown by the liver. As a result, skatole accumulates in the fat of male pigs as they mature.

Researchers also asked the group to taste burgers from pigs that had been castrated.

Researchers concluded that the consumers favoured the meat from the castrated pigs over the boar meat patties, regardless of the level of androstenone and skatole.

As well, acceptability of the boar meat patties decreased with increasing skatole levels, the scientists added in the summary.

In samples with low skatole levels, higher levels of androstenone also reduced acceptability among androstenone-sensitive consumers.

The scientists were not able to identify clear threshold levels for androstenone and skatole. Maps showing the study participants’ declining preferences for boar meat due to higher levels of skatole and androstenone and corrected for the acceptance of the meat product were developed, taking into account androstenone sensitivity.

The scientists said further work was required to cover the entire range of androstenone and skatole levels found in male pigs and for a wider set of meat products.

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