What causes boar taint?
Boar taint is caused by two naturally occurring compounds known as androstenone and skatole, the odour of which is said to be comparable to sweat, urine and faeces. The two compounds can accumulate in the meat of boars (male pigs) whose testicles have not been removed or castrated. If available in high quantities, the compounds can be detected by people through taste and smell when they cook or heat the pork meat or meat products.
Androstenone is basically a pheromone and is produced in the boar’s testes once it has reached sexual maturity. As the boar ages, androstenone accumulates and is stored in the fatty tissues surrounding the muscle.
Skatole is a by-product of the microbial activity that occurs naturally in the digestive tracts of all pigs, male and female. In situations where pigs are kept in poor sanitary conditions, the skatole present in pigs faeces can be absorbed through the skin and directly into the body. Female and castrated boars can metabolise excess concentrations of skatole, removing it from the body. However, in uncastrated boars, the metabolism of skatole is slowed down by the action of their reproductive hormones and, like androstenone, skatole accumulates in the fatty tissues.