EAAP Annual Meeting, 2008. Session ‘Piglet Castration’

Biochemical, nutritional and genetic effects on boar taint in entire male pigs

G. Zamaratskaiaa1 c1 and E. J. Squiresa2

a1 Department of Food Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7051, SE-750 07 Uppsala, Sweden

a2 Department of Animal and Poultry Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1


Pork odour is to a great extent affected by the presence of malodorous compounds, mainly androstenone and skatole. The present review outlines the current state of knowledge about factors involved in the regulation of androstenone and skatole in entire male pigs. Androstenone is a pheromonal steroid synthesised in the testes and metabolised in the liver. Part of androstenone accumulates in adipose tissue causing a urine-like odour. Skatole is produced in the large intestine by bacterial degradation of tryptophan and metabolised by hepatic cytochrome P450 enzymes and sulphotransferase. The un-metabolised part accumulates in adipose tissue, causing faecal-like odour. Androstenone levels are mostly determined by genetic factors and stage of puberty, whereas skatole levels in addition to genetic background and hormonal status of the pigs are also controlled by nutritional and environmental factors. To reduce the risk of tainted carcasses entering the market, male pigs are surgically castrated in many countries. However, entire males compared to castrates have superior production characteristics: higher growth rate, better feed efficiency and leaner carcasses. Additionally, animal welfare aspects are currently of particular importance in light of increasing consumers’ concerns. Nutrition, hormonal status, genetic influence on boar taint compounds and the methods to develop genetic markers are discussed. Boar taint due to high levels of skatole and androstenone is moderately heritable and not all market weight entire males have boar taint; it should thus be possible to select for pigs that do not have boar taint. In these studies, it is critical to assess the steroidogenic potential of the pigs in order to separate late-maturing pigs from those with a low genetic potential for boar taint. A number of candidate genes for boar taint have been identified and work is continuing to develop genetic markers for low boar taint. More research is needed to clarify the factors involved in the development of boar taint and to develop additional methods to prevent the accumulation of high concentrations of skatole and androstenone in fat. This review proposes those areas requiring further research.

(Received May 20 2008)

(Accepted September 19 2008)

(Online publication December 17 2008)


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