It is often said that Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Right now I am thinking of one particular differentiating organ...... the nose, of course!
Sensory Perception: a tale of two halves?
Whilst sitting in the Pigs 2022 conference listening to an excellent talk on meat quality by Caroline Kealey (JSR) there were two sample pots being passed around the audience: One was filled with Skatole, and one with Androstenone. These are the two compounds which are responsible for “Boar Taint”, the unpleasant flavour/odour linked to entire male boar meat. As the pots made their way around the audience I watched, with curiosity, the responses of people sniffing them. A man across the aisle pulled a face of distaste at the Androstenone but not the Skatole pot. An obvious noise of disgust emitted from a lady sitting
Then they were passed to my colleague Freddie, who deeply inhaled from both pots with little response. Was he just being brave? Then to Ifor, who had a similar lack of response. Was he trying to compete with Freddie? Emma was next, and her contorted face of revulsion said it all. And then the pots reached me. Now, I had previously suspected that I was reasonably sensitive to boar taint from occasional experiences of spending good time and money lovingly cooking pork dishes, serving them up to eager family and friends, only to dislike the taste of the pork myself. Now I was being faced with the possible culprits. Firstly I removed the Skatole pot lid and practically gagged as my nose hovered over the top. To me it was like inhaling putrid faeces. Then the Androstenone pot, which smelled like the urine of a slathering chomping boar, not an odour to make me gag, but not something I want my pork chops to taste like. Seeing my animated responses my male colleagues quickly took the pots back to have another deep sniff, but still they could not smell a thing! I was aware before the talk that overall women are more sensitive to Boar Taint than men, but it was striking to see the two extremes of responses in reality.
The issue of Boar taint?
Boar Taint is a controversial subject. Some people say it is not an issue at all, and others say it is the biggest challenge to meat quality. It hadn’t occurred to me until I saw the mixed reactions to these pots that maybe this difference of opinion is due to personal sensitivities? If you haven’t experienced an unpleasant reaction yourself then why would you see it as a problem? If all the correctly cooked British pork you have eaten has been delicious then why would you doubt the quality of the product? Well personally, I have never experienced being kicked in the nether regions, but I can look at a man who has and believe it is a pretty unpleasant thing.
Worldwide women are responsible for most of the food shopping and cooking, if they have had a bad experience with pork they will be put off buying it again. During Pigs 2022 the massive potential of the Asian pork export market was repeatedly emphasised. Interestingly studies have shown that people of Asian origin are more sensitive to Boar Taint than people of Caucasian origin. So if we want Asian housewives to keep buying British Pork, is the best collection of people to decide the product suitability an industry mostly comprised of white men?
The future impact of boar management
Now, I am playing Devil’s Advocate here, I know that independent of race and gender the industry is striving towards the best product we can achieve, and that most people are astutely aware of the end consumer. However, looking back at our domestic situation we are in a market place where more than half of the pork on our shelves is boar meat, due to other countries “dumping” their entire boars onto us as we are seen as a nation who likes it, and although not all of that is tainted, a percentage will be, and a percentage of consumers will be sensitive to that boar taint and will be put off purchasing pork again.
As the whole of Europe re-addresses the way they manage their boars, thanks to the EU ban on surgical castration, maybe now is also the perfect time to reconsider the way we raise ours? Until then, I will keep going to my local butcher, who only buys gilts, so I can support the industry I am passionate about, whilst still getting to enjoy my pork chops taint free!
For further information please contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. www.zoetis.co.uk Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible). Date of preparation: July 2017. AH489/17