Danish feed research targets boar taint

Scientists in Denmark are investigating whether or not a substance can be added to the feed given to boars to prevent boar taint being noticed in roasted meat.

A two-year project to look at the issue is being carried out by a team at Aarhus University’s Department of Animal Science under the leadership of senior researcher, Nuria Canibe (pictured). Funding, worth the equivalent of £255,000, has been provided by Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.

One approach to solving the boar taint problem is to reduce the concentration of the substances that create the smell. The project team is therefore seeking to find out whether the substances that taint the meat can be taken out of circulation by using adsorbents.

Boar taint in the meat is caused by two components: skatole and androstenone, explained Ms Canibe, adding that while much research has been carried out on skatole, very little is known about androstenone.

“This is a substance produced by the mature male pig, which he uses, among other things, to attract sows in heat,” she said. “Androstenone is found in high concentrations in the boar’s saliva. When a sow that is ready to mate detects the “scent”, she will stand still so that the boar can mount her. The boar’s excess androstenone can be found in the blood plasma and adipose tissue, which is why it taints the meat.”

One theory is that the smell of androstenone can be avoided in meat by feeding the animals an adsorbent, with new research showing that adsorbents, such as activated carbon, can reduce the concentration of androstenone in fat and blood plasma and thus reduce boar taint in the roasted meat. Activated carbon has been used for centuries to bind moisture, odours and noxious substances and to clean air and water.

Research targets include examining whether or not androstenone is absorbed from the gut and identifying how much of the adsorbent effect can be attributed to the binding of androstenone in the gut and to the binding of sex hormones that could potentially affect the metabolism of androstenone in the liver.  The research team also aims to develop methods to identify adsorbents that have the potential to reduce boar taint.

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