Solutions for controlling unpleasant aromas in pork

Farmers continually evaluate new approaches for the delivery of high quality pork.  For the control of off odor, all of the following solutions have been explored or are being explored, with varying degrees of success:

  • Physical castration – The traditional method of managing off odors has been a common practice for centuries. This long-standing traditional management protocol helps farmers eliminate male-related odors.
  • Early marketing – The two natural substances that cause male-related odor – androstenone and skatole – start to accumulate in the fat of male pigs as they approach puberty. It’s thought that taking the pigs to market before reaching puberty can help reduce the presence of off odor. However, the young pigs often have not developed to a level that makes this a viable option for farmers. There is also a risk that a pig will mature early and develop the odor-causing compounds, so this alternative is less effective than some others.
  • Genetics/breeding – Another method to control off odors is to select the sex of the piglet before birth using sperm sorting based on sex chromosome and artificial insemination. This method has been successfully used in cattle breeding but the technique is still under research and no economic or practical solution yet exists in pig farming.
  • Nutrition – Skatole levels can be decreased by adjustments in the diet.  Androstenone levels, however, are a function of sexual maturity, so nutrition programs have not proven effective, to this point, for the control of off odors.
  • Immunological control –This approach uses the pig’s own immune system to control the substances that cause off odors.  It’s a protein compound that works like an immunization.  Immunological products have been approved as safe and effective for use in more than 60 countries around the world, including the United States, European Union and Japan.

    Immunological control offers several advantages for consumers and farmers. It eliminates the need for physical castration, so animals grow with all the inherent advantages of intact males. They convert feed to meat more efficiently.1 It is an animal friendly alternative as the risk of piglet mortality associated with physical castration is eliminated.2

    Additionally, Americans who eat pork can enjoy the same high quality pork and know that it was raised using fewer resources. As intact males, pigs grow to more of their full potential, converting feed into meat more efficiently. 1 That means they eat less feed, create less manure, and produce more pork.1, 3 Less waste and more pork means a potential incremental reduction in the carbon footprint compared to pigs using the current system.4
  1. MacKinnon J, Pearce M. IMPROVAC (Pfizer Animal Health): An immunological product for the control of boar taint in male pigs. 11. Practical application in pig production and potential production benefits. The Pig Journal 2007;59:68-90.
  2. Allison J, Pearce M, Brock F, Crane J. A comparison of mortality (animal withdrawal) rates in male fattening pigs reared using either physical castration or vaccination with IMPROVAC as the method to reduce boar taint in Proceedings. 21st IPVS Congress 2010; 1139.
  3. Allison J, McKeith F, Souza, et al. Impact of using vaccination with IMPROVAC rather than physical
    castration on the carcass characteristics of finishing male pigs, in Proceedings. 55th ICoMST 2009,
  4. The International EPD System. IMPROVAC. Available at: http://gryphon.environdec.com/data/files/6/7831/epd261.pdf. Accessed March 9, 2011.