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May 19, 2009 03:00 PM

Most Wild Boar sold today isn't truly wild [split from New England]

according to my supplier :
Most Wild Boar sold today isn't truly wild. Even though it sounds like an oxymoron, Wild Boar is often farm-raised, since “Wild Boar” is a distinct species of hog, regardless of whether it's truly wild or not. Our Wild Boar is actually wild Wild Boar. Each Wild Boar is humanely hunted, trapped and brought to a holding pen before slaughter.

A truly wild product, wild boar is free roaming and eats a natural, wild diet of foraged nuts, legumes and other forest foods. This gives it a sweet and nutty flavor, a deeper color, leaner texture, tighter grain, and bolder taste than domestic pork. It is easily substituted for pork in any recipe.

Wild boar is an invasive and destructive species. In fact, some say that the act of eating wild boar helps the local environment from which it is caught.

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    1. Very interesting. I wonder if maybe this wild meat is legal to sell because it is trapped and then slaughtered, rather than shot and killed in the hunt. It would make a whole lot more sense for the method of slaughter to be the critical factor in the food safety law, rather than it being wild versus farmed.
      One note I'll add is that, while the term "wild boar" is perfectly appropriate culinarily, the appropriate zoological term would probably be "feral pig" (or "razorback" if you're in the South). While there are swine native to the Americas (peccaries), pigs are an Old World animal. Domestic pigs descend from various species of wild boar. When early colonial farmers brought pigs to the New World, they typically were raised free range with no fences or feed. They quickly became feral and a "wild" population developed. Later, true wild boar were introduced for sport, and interbreeding occurred. It's practically impossible to distinguish how much of the lineage of a pig in the wild is wild boar and how much is feral pig, but it is widely believed that feral pig genes are several degrees of magnitude more prominent than wild boar genes in American wild porcine populations. But, again, as a culinary term, "wild boar" is appropriate and "feral pig" is unappetizing.

      5 Replies
      1. re: danieljdwyer

        "Method of slaughter" might make sense as the basis, but I believe it's something else. Years ago the butcher I went to in Boston (the same one Julia Child used: I can't remember the name, but I do remember that he got in a lot of trouble for selling people meat at a price that included the weight of the meat hook) explained to me that he wasn't allowed to sell meat that was the result of hunting, because that would encourage people to hunt for profit. Mind you, he often had some wild-caught venison under the counter for a "special" price, but in theory he couldn't legally sell anything killed by private hunters.

        1. re: linguist

          Hmmm. Makes sense. I've had no luck finding anything authoritative, so I guess maybe I should stop thinking about it and just eat the damn pork.

          1. re: linguist

            According to the health dept i am not allowed to serve anything that is not USDA approved. He checks my menu every time i have a game dinner to make sure that it is sent from a source that is approved. my guess is that hunted animals may have something wrong with them and since it is not tested it could be passed onto customers. Same reason that trichinosis is almost non-existent in the USA. testing

            1. re: nom nom nom

              I'm sure that's part of it -- maybe even the major part. The business about not encouraging for-profit hunting may have been another part, at least in Massachusetts at one point, as I was told by Jack Savenor back in the early 70s, but maybe only a contributing factor. I'm interested to see that Savenor's market ( ) is now renowned as a "purveyor of wild game and exotic meats"! I notice that in the milestones on their history page, they don't mention the unfortunate business of the meathook charges....

            2. re: linguist

              It was Savenor's in Cambridge that got caught selling the hook. This was back in the late 1960's or early 70's. I was a poor grad student then, but we used Savenor's for lamb as they would get really young lamb and butcher it to specifiaction. It was superb. And, yes, Julia Child did shop there and was seen there once by my wife.

              As for wild animals served as game vs the same species raised and slaughtered, the wild ones can carry diseases. Wild deer and their relatives in some areas of the country probably are carrying (and dying from?) one of the infectious encephalopathies ("mad cow") so I would not want wild animals in the commercial food chain.

          2. Your supplier is pulling your ham bone. It is against the law in the USA to sell wild harvested game.
            Your vendor is either blatantly breaking the law or engaged is some slightly shady marketing tactics.
            "wild game" is harvested from game ranches. In the case of hogs those are high fence operations. The beasts may well be "free range" and trapped before being slaughtered but they are most assuredly not "wild" as the vendor suggests.
            Wild Boar is a term applied (falsely) by many to any pig such as the javelina or the feral hog. All three are very different beasts. I disagree completely that labeling all three "wild boars" is appropriate in a culinary sense as some one suggested up thread. That's the equivalent of saying all salmon is the same and suggesting that farm raised Vs Alaskan King or Atlantic salmon are all be the same product and equal.
            Then again we see a ton of Pollack and others in the the same family being passed off as "cod" or scrod.
            Slick marketing does not make it appropriate.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Fritter

              I didn't say that peccaries could accurately be labeled as wild boar. Delicious as they are, they are a separate family within the suborder Suina.
              Actual feral pigs (by definition, they must live wild to be feral) are a different story, however. On a scientific level, it makes sense to distinguish between feral and wild. On a culinary level, both terms are vague enough that it does not make any sense to distinguish between the two so long as they have both lived their lives in the wild. Wild boar refers to a species of animal with about 20 distinct subspecies. At least half of these subspecies have been domesticated. The domestic pig is not a separate species or even subspecies - significant, as most domestic livestock are separately classified from their wild ancestors. Often it is identified as as Sus Scrofa Scrofa, the same subspecies as the European Wild Boar, but this is inaccurate.
              Once a particular lineage of domesticated pig reverts to a life in the wild, that lineage becomes indistinguishable from the pre-domestication stock. We know that some of the swine living in the wild of the United States is scientifically classifiable as feral and some is scientifically classifiable as wild, but we can't distinguish between the two stocks or determine the level of interbreeding that has occurred (likely a complete assimilation of populations by this point, as well over a hundred generations of pigs have been born since the introduction of the truly wild stock.)
              It's nothing like saying that farm raised and wild salmon are the same product. It's a lot like a bunch of farm raised salmon escaping into the wild, and their descendants being caught four hundred years later and labeled as wild salmon. It would be splitting hairs to an absurd level to say there is a difference between genetically near identical animals just because one has a lineage that was never domesticated and the other is four hundred years removed from a domestic lifestyle. If you want to make that distinction, then no animal in the Americas can be confidently called a wild boar, as it would be functionally impossible to establish that an animal has no feral pig heritage.
              Also, the federal government has no authority to make the sale of wild game illegal nationwide. They can ban the sale of wild game on the level of interstate commerce, but they can't ban it within a state. That is up to the individual states, and not all fifty states have such laws. Alaska, at the very least, allows the sale of wild game.

              1. re: danieljdwyer

                If you can't tell the difference between a feral hog and a wild boar then you need to get out in the woods more often.
                The web site the OP quoted is selling this "Wild Boar" on the internet and clearly that falls under federal guidelines.
                AK does NOT allow the sale of game meat in all GMU's and the ADFG is in the process of placing even further restrictions on that. You are relying entirely too much on Google for your "facts". Considering the topic, game meat sales in AK is a rather moot point.

                "On a culinary level, both terms are vague enough that it does not make any sense to distinguish between the two so long as they have both lived their lives in the wild"

                Rubbish! Can you distinguish veal from beef? CAFO pork from Berkshire? A feral hog is a domestic pig gone wild. Nothing more. A wild boar is a completely different beast. Two photos. Which is a feral hog and which is a boar?
                The only people who would try to peddle this sort of miss-information IMO are those who stand to profit from it. Two salmon may look the same to an untrained eye. For conversations sake lets say Kings sell for $5 a pound more than Silvers, but hey their both Salmonids. Might as well charge every one the higher price. We might even squeeze a few trout and some whitefish under that classification. By your definition I could let domestic pigs run around "free range" and then pass them off as "wild Boar". A feral hog does not have to live it's entire life in the "wild" to be considered feral.
                The bottom line-It's against the law to sell truly wild game as this vendor is suggesting they carry irrespective of their lineage. Many vendors sell free range boar. The difference is they don't go to the extreme of trying to suggest that the game lived in the wild and not behind a high fence.
                As I said earlier,
                Slick marketing doesn't make it right.

                1. re: Fritter

                  Let's start with your accusation that my information is coming from Google. I grew up around pigs, have a good deal of experience raising, breeding, slaughtering, cleaning, dressing, and cooking them. I've seen enough razorbacks in the Southwest. I've seen a very small number of wild boars while hiking in Asia and Europe. I've studied - in texts, not the internet - a good deal about the biology and natural history of the Sus genera to learn more about, and more effectively farm the animals. So how about we skip the ridiculous assumptions and ad hominems and stick to the relevant information you challenged.

                  The definition of feral pig, in zoology and in any other field, is not, as you claim, "A feral hog is a domestic pig gone wild. Nothing more." Feral pigs are members of feral populations, and, in the United States, would all have been born and lived their entire lives in the wild. Pig farmers don't lose pigs anymore, and probably haven't in substantial numbers for well over a century. We have evidence of feral pig populations in the United States from the beginning of European colonization. The feral pig populations in this country descend from these animals.
                  In those two pictures you provide, the pig on the left is well under a year old, while the pig on the right is at least three or four years old, but I would guess more like eight to ten. The one on the left is probably also just a free range pig. I've never seen a pink razorback. I've seen plenty of razorbacks with hair as dark and tusks larger than the one you show in the picture on the right. Razorbacks are feral pigs; they are not wild boar. Wild boar do not live in the United States, or anywhere else in the Americas. And, again, wild boar is not a species. The wild boar in Japan don't look anything like the wild boar in Europe, and they taste quite a bit different from one another too. The wild boar in Spain tastes just like a razorback. You are trying to compare that to selling two types of salmon from different subfamilies. That's several orders of magnitude removed from two animals from the same subspecies.
                  And, to be clear, I never said that I thought what this supplier was doing was right. I am reserving judgment on that. What I said was essentially that, since we do not have any wild boar at all in this hemisphere, there's nothing wrong with calling a feral pig a wild boar. Most hunters of razorbacks in this country that I've known call them wild boar, even though they're technically feral pigs. The media consistently refers to animals like the one in that ridiculous Hogzilla story as wild boar. They're all feral pigs.

                  1. re: danieljdwyer

                    " Pig farmers don't lose pigs anymore"

                    Please tell me your not being serious. Pigs escape with great regularity. That's exactly why so many states now have wild hogs. Mi has just started having this problem in the last two years!
                    Wild boars are imported and raised here on high fence operations. The notion that we no longer have boars in this hemisphere is one I certainly do not agree with. We have a lot of species in the USA that are not indigenous. Hunt Texas some time and you will see plenty of exotic species.
                    There is only one issue here. Most farms that raise "Wild Boars" do so on small acreages. The animals are not free range or wild in any way.
                    Some ranches especially in Texas can exceed 25,000 acres and be high fenced. The hogs or boars that they raise roam free and are trapped then transported for processing. The vendor that this topic is about goes just a little to far when they state their product is "truly wild".
                    If it were in point of fact "truly wild" they could not legally sell it across state lines as they are advertising.
                    It is simply a farm raised free range product.

                    " I never said that I thought what this supplier was doing was right. I am reserving judgment on that"

                    That's interesting since they claim ;
                    "“Wild Boar” is a distinct species of hog".
                    I thought your point was "wild boar is not a species"?
                    Then again there is your own statement upthread ....... " true wild boar were introduced for sport". ;)

                    1. re: Fritter

                      What you are hunting in Texas are feral pigs, not wild boars. You might call them wild boars, but they are not. That was my original point.
                      In the case of Texas, they descend from the pigs the Spanish brought while colonizing Mexico.
                      Yes, I was overstating the point by saying that pig farmers never lose pigs anymore - though I've never known a farmer who lost a pig, nor have any of the farms I've worked on lost pigs - but they aren't losing them in great enough numbers to impact the population that has been there in strong numbers for almost half a millennium. Even if they were, within a few generations - which is only a few years - the surviving feral population would be essentially indistinguishable from the rest of the country's feral pig population, which you seem to be comfortable with referring to as wild boars.
                      Similarly, while wild boars have, in the past, been imported and let lose to hunt, this has not substantially impacted the extant population. Ok, yes, there are wild boars on farms here, but we're talking about wild populations. It's not that, "We no longer have boars in this hemisphere." We never had a substantial population of wild boars at any point in history. We have had a very substantial feral pig population for as long as we've had a European population. The feral pigs here are roughly equivalent to the wild boar in Europe. They have the same appearance, and they taste roughly the same. Obviously the different regions and divergent lineages create some differences in flavor, but not nearly as much difference as between a domestic pig and either a feral pig or wild boar.
                      I realize you're probably right about the distributor, and I haven't argued against that point. All I'm saying is that an American feral pig - not escaped pig or free range pig - is not terribly different than a European wild boar.

                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                        "Ok, yes, there are wild boars on farms here, but we're talking about wild populations"

                        You are talking about wild populations. I'm talking about game farms.
                        The topic at hand is the product this company is carrying. Boars are farmed just like cattle or domestic pigs. Wild game can not be sold legally in this manner.
                        It's not subject to interpretation.
                        Game meat such as free range wild boar, venison etc can marketed and sold be as long as it comes from a ranch or farm and meets USDA inspections. Go back up and read the OP's second post. If there are USDA certifications that flesh is from a farm. Not a "truly" wild animal.

                        "What you are hunting in Texas are feral pigs, not wild boars"

                        There are ranches in texas to hunt boars at. Many of them are the same places selling game to processers.
                        This may be of interest. From the Texas Parks & Wildlife;

                        "There are very few documented facts concerning the history of the European wild boars in Texas. The Denman releases along the central Texas coast are probably the best known in Texas. In about 1930 - 1933 the first known importations of European wild boars were recorded when approximately eleven were obtained from the San Antonio zoo and escaped or were released near Austwell in Aransas county. An additional 10-15 were released in 1939 between Port O'Conner and Seadrift in Calhoun county. They readily crossed with domestic or feral hogs (Mayer and Brisbin 1991). The next reported release of European hogs occurred in the early 1940 when a rancher in northwest Bexar county purchased several from a traveling zoo and consequently released them into the wild. Following a fence - destroying flood which allowed the animals to escape into the surrounding areas of eastern Medina and southern Bandera county, these hogs also readily bred with free ranging domestic hogs (Mayer and Brisbin 1991). Later releases of the so-called European wild boars were probably hybrids between the European and feral hogs. "

                        1. re: Fritter

                          If you're talking about game farms, then I don't know what point you're trying to make in saying that it's incorrect to say feral pigs can be called wild boars. Are you suggesting that only farm raised "wild boar" counts as wild boar?
                          Otherwise, if the farm raised "wild boar" doesn't count as wild boar - which I would agree with completely - and feral pigs don't count as wild boar, then are you saying that it is inappropriate to call anything in the Americas a wild boar?

            2. There is nothing "farm raised" about feral pigs and javalinas in east and south Texas. You couldn't fence them in or out if you tried. They are considered a nuisance because they compete for the same habitat as deer. I have killed them just to gain deer hunting privileges. I have never heard of a commercial market for them. Sometimes javalina meat is included in venison sausage, because venison is so lean.

                1. re: Fritter

                  I rather doubt that going feral is enough to qualify an animal as being the same as it's wild ancestors. If it was, I would not have to lament (as I often do) the fact I was born three or four centuries too late to find out what Aurochs (wild bull) tasted like. I would simply have to take a plane to Austraila where as I understand it, feral cattle are part of the introduced Outback fauna in some areas. Or that the Jungle fowl I see sometimes in he Bronx zoo (usually with the elephants) are in actuality no more than feral chickens.

                  On a side note, from what I have heard, part of AOC/DOC definition of a lot of the finer Spanish and Italian hams specified that the animals they come from have to be allowded to run free through the forest for most of the year, so that they can freely goge themselves on acorns and chestnuts an such things, and are only rounded up again at the edn of the season (I have also been told that this tradion is also how porchini mushrooms got thier name, they came into season in the fall, and were tradinally collected mainly by the people who had gone into the woods to round up the pigs again) does that mean that, by defintion hams like Jamon Iberico de Bellota are tecnically wild boar hams or feral swine hams?

                  1. re: jumpingmonk

                    Sorry for the delayed response but I was waiting for an answer from a vendor that I use about their Wild Boar products. With the holiday in the middle it took a little extra time.
                    I'm assured the product they carry is a true wild boar (species) and a domestic product. However she makes no claim that their wild boar is truly "wild" as in running around the country side at will. This is a nationally recognized and highly respected vendor by numerous Chef's so I trust her completely.
                    In regards to the Spanish hogs I believe Jamon is required to be from a very specific breed and that likely excludes any sort of boar or hybrid. I have never been to Spain but I have seem some videos of the hogs roaming on pasture consuming the acorns. With a Jamon Iberico de Bellota selling for roughly $1400 I would have to assume such a valuable stock is indeed behind a fence excluding the possibility of them being feral hogs.
                    I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to learn that occasionally a rogue pig goes on a rampage, hopes the fence and tries to catch a ride back to town with some unsuspecting tourist. ;)
                    I also took the time to give a friend I have hunted with in Texas a call who is a Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist. He assures me there are numerous hybrid "wild boars" in Texas but indeed the vast majority are behind fences. He did however point out that the state does not consider boars or feral hogs game animals so they would not be subject at least in Texas to laws regarding the sale of wild game. I did not ask but I do believe the Javelina is a game animal in Texas as it is an indigenous species.

                    1. re: Fritter

                      I finally tried the dish that originally started this whole thread. I also gave the vendor a call to try to find out more, but they wouldn't answer my questions. So, after a bit of digging, I got some contact info for a "wild boar" rancher in Texas.
                      First, the dish. It was very good, but the meat tasted absolutely nothing like any wild boar I'd eaten previously - or free range pig, or feral pig, or peccary, for that matter. I've eaten wild boar - actually wild, killed by a hunter, not this ranched stuff - exactly twice before.
                      The first time was in Galicia, and the animal was a Sus scrofa castilianus. It was much gamier, but also more tender and sweet than the ranched "wild boar". The second time was in Japan, and the animal was a Sus scrofa leucomystax. Compared to the Texan stuff, this one was very dry (in flavor, not in moisture content), very bold, a little tough, and not gamey at all. Compared to regular old pork, the ranched "wild boar" was richer, a tiny bit gamey, lean, and had that taste like a free range animal where you know it gets plenty of exercise. It still tasted like a farmed animal, not a wild one.
                      Now, the part I found strange was that it tasted a lot like a Bantu pig, a breed developed primarily from South Asian wild boar lineage, possibly Sus scrofa cristatus. So, when I called the distributor, I inquired as to what part of the world these "wild boar" were from, or, what subspecies are they. She insisted simply that wild boar is a distinct species.
                      So I found a rancher to talk to. He didn't have all the answers, but he was helpful. He did know for sure that the animals are not, as I would have assumed, descended from European wild boar. He thought they were North African, Sus scrofa algira, but thought it was possible that they were Asian. He did say he was pretty sure they were not all from a single subspecies, because the flavor varies enormously from animal to animal. It is possible, according to him, that climate and terrain similarities are what made it taste like a Bantu pig. He admitted that his boars wouldn't really taste the same as any truly wild boar for a number of reasons. The biggest is that the climate and terrain of the ranches down there are nothing like the environments wild boar inhabit in the Old World. Because they have few natural predators in Texas, and the ranchers kill any potential predators they spot, their diet is very different. In the Old World, wild boar can't go out into the open and take time to eat grains. On the ranches, they do just that. Their behavior changes completely within one generation. They also need to cover a whole lot more ground - his estimate was that they need at least ten times as much space on his ranch as they need in the woods of Northern Spain in order to find adequate food. Also, particularly in lean years, they need to do a lot supplement the pigs diets - not by feeding them directly, but by stocking the ranch with food they can find. He did hold fast to the position that these animals count as wild, but was very open with the fact that these "wild boar" won't taste like wild boar found naturally in the Old World.
                      To make a long story short, I'm calling shenanigans on the fact that the FDA allows this product to be labeled wild boar. It's not wild, doesn't taste wild, and the ecosystem the pigs depend on does not sustain itself. The technical zoological classification of these animals would be recently domesticated.

                      On Jamon Iberico, they have to be Iberian pigs. They are raised in carefully controlled environments that are referred to as woods, but are sort of halfway between a savanna and a forest. The oak trees are carefully cared for, and are spaced far enough apart from each other so that the pigs have to do plenty of moving around. They are fenced in, but they aren't fed the acorns. They forage. They do get plenty of human contact, but far exceed the qualification for free range. They are nothing like feral animals, however. Their characteristics are carefully through human selection, where feral animals are subject to the same natural selection as wild ones.

                      1. re: danieljdwyer

                        Good Post daniel. I just won't deal with a vendor that can not or will not answer questions. That's just non-sense when they make those bold claims in their marketing. This was a great thread and I enjoyed it.
                        Now lets BBQ some pig! :)

                        1. re: danieljdwyer

                          Considering the price of Jamon Iberico, if I farmed them I would ride my fences often! And maybe have a few "in" gates but no "out" gates, sort of piggie turnstyles.