Boar taint project geared to improve UK pig industry competitiveness

Boar taint is an important issue in the UK and EU, with up to 10% of carcases from uncastrated male pigs being affected by an offensive odour and/or taste says BPEX-funded PhD student, Kelly Westmacott.

Currently involved in a project to investigate how technology can be used in abattoirs to prevent tainted meat from reaching the consumer, Ms Westmacott is assessing a novel technology which is believed to be capable of measuring boar taint in pig carcases and has “the potential to be an intrinsic part of the pig processing line”.

“Unlike most European countries and elsewhere, the UK does not routinely castrate boars to prevent taint but instead slaughters them at a younger age,” she told BPEX’s Abattoir Update publication. “However, this could change across the EU, as animal welfare concerns have led to an initiative on the voluntary ban of the surgical castration of piglets by 2018.

“As a consequence, the prospect of this ban has accentuated the already pressing need to develop a robust analytical system that can simultaneously detect taint compounds at the point of slaughter.”

While pointing out that “no technology exists at present to provide on-line detection of boar taint in a rapid, cost-effective manner, suitable for the industry”, Ms Westmacott said that her four-year project was designed to provide essential information to enable the implementation and integration of such a system.

This, she added, could help to improve customer satisfaction and increase the competitiveness of the UK pig industry by allowing heavier carcases to be produced.

The project, which is still in its early days, is being carried out at the Centre for Research in Biosciences, University of the West of England Bristol, in partnership with JSR Genetics Ltd.

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