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Boar Taint Traits Can Be Reduced Through Breeding

23 November 2013

Researchers based in Denmark have found that the levels of the two chemicals responsible for boar taint in pork from entire male pigs of the Danish Landrace breed can be reduced through selection at breeding, without detrimental effects on economically important traits.

As A.B. Strathe of the University of Copenhagen explains in a paper published in Journal of Animal Science recently, boar taint is an offensive odour that affects the smell and taste of cooked pork, resulting mainly from the accumulation of skatole and androstenone in the back fat of intact males.

The aim of the study - conducted with colleagues and authors from the Danish Agriculture and Food Council's Pig Research Centre, was to estimate genetic parameters for skatole and androstenone and their genetic relationship to production and litter size traits.

Concentrations of skatole and androstenone in the back fat were available for approximately 6,000 and 1,000 Landrace boars, respectively. The concentrations were log-transformed to align phenotypic measures to a normal distribution. Heritability estimates for Log(skatole) and Log(androstenone) were 0.33 and 0.59, respectively.

The genetic correlation between the two measures of boar taint was 0.37, suggesting that genetic selection against boar taint based on only one of the chemical compounds could be inadequate.

The boar taint compounds had low and mostly favourable genetic correlations with the production traits. Most noticeably, a favourable genetic correlation of –0.20 between meat percentage and Log(skatole) was estimated. Therefore, continued selection for lean pigs can also slowly reduce the level of boar taint if the desired carcass weight is kept constant.

The relationship between litter size traits (measured on sows related to boars) and boar taint compounds was low and not significantly different from 0.

Strathe and co-authors concluded that skatole and androstenone can be reduced through selection without affecting important economical production and litter size traits. Thus, animal breeding offers an effective and sustainable solution to surgical castration of male piglets, the Danish researchers added.


Strathe A.B., I.H. Velander, T. Mark and H.N. Kadarmideen. 2013. Genetic parameters for androstenone and skatole as indicators of boar taint and their relationship to production and litter size traits in Danish Landrace. J. Anim. Sci. 91(6):2587-2595. doi: 10.2527/jas.2012-6107

Further Reading

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

August 2013

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