27 Feb 2018, 14:46 PM
AHDB Pork Blog
A couple of weeks ago, I travelled to Lisbon, Portugal, to attend the annual IPEMA EU Cost action group. The group consists of members from across the EU who all have an interest in exploring approaches for producing pork from entire (uncastrated) males.
To set the scene, across Europe producers have agreed, in principle, to abolish castration without anaesthetic from January 2018. This move presents new challenges, with particular focuses now shifting to the management of product quality (detecting and reducing boar taint, coping with extreme leanness), specific nutritional requirements, appropriate animal management and housing to reduce boar taint, as well as addressing associated animal welfare issues (aggression, sexual behaviour).
The particular issue we were discussing at the IPEMA event, and which can be a result of rearing entire males, was boar taint; this is an unpleasant odour that occurs within pork from a percentage of male pigs when they reach sexual maturity.
The first talk was given by representatives from the University of Bonn, Germany, which is beginning to collate research from German pig breeding organisations looking at breeding against boar taint. From 2019, there will be a ban on surgical castration without anaesthesia in Germany and, with 25 per cent of their commercial crossbreds having problems with boar taint, the future market for entire boars still remains very unclear.
The next session focused on nutrition; work in this area is very much concentrated on finding out whether any dietary adjustments can be made to reduce the effects of boar taint and whether any new feed concepts could be developed. One Belgian feed company, for example, claims to have developed a cost-effective concept that helps to reduce boar taint by promoting digestion in the large intestine, it is marketed as a viable alternative to surgical castration, costing in the region of €3.5 per pig.
Another session addressed the issues around meat quality. Carcase composition of entire and castrated males is of particular interest for processing industries across Europe. We heard how research being carried out in France is using an ‘image-meater’ grading device to compare the lean meat percentage of castrated vs entire male carcases and the presence of the halothane gene; the image-meater is able to determine fat, tissue and meat measurements.
Many more topics were covered over the course of the meeting and, if this is a topic you’re particularly interested in, you can find all the papers on the IPEMA website.
The group will continue to look at innovations and disseminate science-based best practice through similar events, with the aim of helping to support the industry to cope with the challenges faced when creating valuable products from both entire males and immunocastrates. Over the coming year, I will report on any outcomes from the research being undertaken and which may be of interest to the UK pig production and processing industries.
By AHDB Pork at 27 Feb 2018, 14:46 PM