Female consumers test boar meat burgers in Europe

Tests have been carried out on female consumers in a number of European countries to assess their thoughts on the taste of boar meat burgers with varying levels of ‘boar taint’, reports Chris McCullough.
calendar icon 16 February 2018
clock icon 4 minute read

Highlights (Aluwé et al., 2018)

  • Consumer and expert panel evaluations were closely correlated with skatole.
  • At low skatole level, preference for boar meat patties decreased with increasing androstenone level.
  • Effect of androstenone level was only significant for androstenone sensitive consumers.
  • A map presenting the reduction in preference depending on the level of androstenone and skatole was developed.
  • No clear threshold/rejection level for skatole or androstenone could be determined.

The reasoning behind the research was to evaluate whether the meat from boars tasted any better or any worse than the meat from castrated male pigs.

Women are said to have a more sensitive palate towards boar meat with boar taint - an offensive odour or taste that can be given off during the cooking or eating of pork (or pork products) derived from non-castrated male pigs once they reach puberty.

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 as male pigs reach puberty, while skatole (a byproduct of intestinal bacteria, or bacterial metabolite of the amino acid tryptophan) is produced in both male and female pigs. 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.

Previous studies have indicated that around 75 per cent of consumers are sensitive to boar taint so it is necessary for pork producers to control it.

The latest research (Aluwé et al., 2018) was carried out on 476 female consumers from Denmark, France, Italy and Poland. The group evaluated a total of eight meat burgers or ‘patties’ from boars with varying levels of skatole (0.10-0.40 g/g fat tissue) and androstenone (0.47-2.00 g/g fat tissue).

In order to provide a control comparison with the boar meat, the researchers asked the group to also try burgers from pigs that had been castrated.

The researchers concluded that the consumers favoured the meat from the castrated pigs more so than the boar meat patties, regardless of the level of androstenone and skatole. Palatability of the boar meat patties decreased with increasing skatole level, the researchers added in their summary.

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

The researchers were not able to identify any clear threshold levels for androstenone and skatole. Maps presenting the reduction in palatability due to increasing levels of skatole and androstenone, and corrected for the general acceptance of the meat product were developed, taking into account androstenone sensitivity.

As with many research projects, the researchers concluded that further work was required to cover the entire range of androstenone and skatole levels found in entire male pigs and for a wider set of meat products.

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Aluwé, M; Aaslyng, M; Backus, G; Bonneau, M; Chevillon, P; Haugen, J; -E.Meier-Dinkel, L; Mörlein, D; Oliver, M; Snoek, H; Tuyttens, FAM; Font-i-Furnols, M (2018). Consumer acceptance of minced meat patties from boars in four European countries. Meat Science, 137:235-243.

By Chris McCullough

Chris McCullough

Multimedia freelance agricultural journalist
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