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I have smelled the enemy and it is boar taint

I have smelled the enemy and it is boar taint
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  • I have smelled the enemy and it is boar taint

    Post #1 - July 26th, 2020, 2:14 pm
    Post #1 - July 26th, 2020, 2:14 pm Post #1 - July 26th, 2020, 2:14 pm
    I knew already that I'm on the sensitive side when it comes to the smell of raw pork, which interferes with my being able to enjoy cooking ribs and pork shoulder at home as much as many here do.

    Two days ago, I bought some ground beef and ground pork, and today I browned them both up for use in bolognese and egg rolls--browning up a lot of meat at once because raw pork in particular waits for no one, right? Based on past experience, I took the plastic off the raw ground pork with more trepidation than the raw ground beef, but it really didn't smell objectionable to me at that point---different from the beef, but not bad in a red-flag way. Maybe it's just me, I thought, as usual; maybe I just have to get more accustomed to the smell of raw pork. On to the browning, in two big pots for the two purposes. First thing that caught my attention is that the characteristically unpleasant smell pork sometimes has became stronger with heating.

    It's probably a bad sign for the planned dishes if you spend most of the time while the meat is browning googling, why does this pork smell funny?

    Yes, I know, I know, some will say it's just the result of cryovac packaging; rinse it off and let it air out and it will dissipate (it did not). NOT, mind you, before you jump on me about that, that I'm disputing that at all --- if you unpackage cryovacked pork and rinse it off and air it out and it smells fine to you, fine. I'm talking about when it smells maybe just a little wierd and when the wierd smell gets noticeably stronger while it's cooking. And again, also, I'm not talking about a strong enough bad smell when raw to suggest the meat is spoiled.

    After a lot of internet searching (and today's not the first time I've gone unwillingly down this stinky rabbit hole), this is the explanation that makes the most sense to me: boar taint.
    Boar taint is caused by two naturally occurring compounds known as androstenone (a pheromone which is responsible for a sweat/urine scent) and skatole (produced in liver and large intestine, responsible for an even less pleasant fecal aroma). These two compounds can accumulate in the fat of male pigs who have not been castrated. When heated up, these compounds become more volatile, so you’re more likely to detect them in cooked pork.

    Around 75% of the population are susceptible to boar taint, with varying degrees of sensitivity, and women are more prone than men. ... it works the same way [sensitivity to the odor of] asparagus pee does – not everyone has it, but most do...

    It’s not absolute that all boars will develop taint, but without some kind of intervention, up to 50% of them are likely to.

    In my research I came across some independent producers who claimed that consumers might be confusing boar taint with other taints such as stress during slaughter, improper bleed after slaughter, improper chilling procedures or improper handling. Regrettably for anyone who read and believed those statements, they are complete ‘hogwash’, as confirmed by Dr. John McGlone, a professor of animal science at Texas Tech university. “They’re incorrect”, states Dr. McGlone, “stress at slaughter can cause meat lighten or darken in color, and can reduce water holding capacity which makes it dry when you eat it, but none of those examples could cause any result that would be confused with boar taint”.

    If pork smells weird, there are only two possible causes – either you are smelling boar taint, or the meat has started to go bad, and trust me you’ll know the difference. If it’s taint, the smell will only be unpleasant, and if it’s rotten the smell will be nauseating!


    There's more in the quoted article about how pork producers can deal with boar taint, the two main methods being physical castration, which is not always successful, and immunological castration, which supresses the production of the responsible hormone. If I understand correctly, the vaccine required has been used in other countries for a long time and is approved (i.e., judged "safe and effective") by the FDA, but it doesn't appear to be used much in the US.

    This does make me wonder how much raw pork gets trashed because of the boar taint odor issue before it gets to retailers, and whether the US pork industry considers it cost-effective or not to deal with it more aggressively.

    For myself, I'm more pessimistic than ever about buying raw pork that won't have an odor that's offputting to me. After two hours or so cooking a pot of bolognese sauce and another pot of ground beef and pork for egg rolls, I let them cool for a good long while and went back to sniff them. There's that smell. I have to toss them. (And I have to air out the house.) I am (almost 100%) don't doubt they'd be safe to eat. I just don't want to keep smelling that smell every time I reheat them, and I wouldn't want to give dishes I made with them to people who'd have the same reaction.
    "Your swimming suit matches your eyes, you hold your nose before diving, loving you has made me bananas!"

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