Assuring taint-free meat holds the key to raising UK pork consumption, according to Nigel Lodge, MRCVS, national veterinary manager of Pfizer Animal Health.
With UK consumption less than a third that of a number of other European countries, eliminating the risk of boar taint could significantly change the situation, he told delegates at a series of Improvac Experience Day events held in Yorkshire.
Mr Lodge said it was estimated that 20 per cent of intact male pigs could be affected by boar taint at the normal slaughter age in the UK and that one in four people, especially women, are highly sensitive to taint.
“The risk of boar taint is very real and it does cause most family butchers to source pork only from gilts,” said Mr Lodge. Over lunch, delegates had the opportunity to taste pork from an Improvac-vaccinated pig which would otherwise have entered the food chain via the butchery route.
Following presentations and discussion around some of the potential industry benefits of vaccinating with Improvac, the attendees were taken to the University of Leeds farm at Hazlewood to see for themselves the difference between vaccinated and non-vaccinated pigs. By blocking production of the male sex hormone testosterone, the vaccine also results in much quieter behaviour as seen on the unit.
“The change in behaviour is dramatic with significant animal welfare benefits,” said Mr Lodge. “There is much less aggression and mounting, both of which can lead to injury and lameness. In fact, the vaccinated pigs just want to eat, drink and sleep – burning up far less calories than the intact males.
“All producers are seeking to reduce their costs and using Improvac brings an appreciable benefit in the later stages of finishing,” said Mr Lodge.
“The increased daily weight gain could enable producers to finish pigs up to a week earlier. In addition, elimination of boar taint gives producers the option of taking pigs to heavier weights to meet specific demands of processors and retailers, as other European producers have been able to do with castrated males.”