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

  • G. Zamaratskaia (a1) and E. J. Squires (a2)


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.


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Zamaratskaia, G, Rydhmer, L, Chen, G, Madej, A, Andersson, HK, Lundström, K 2005d. Boar taint is related to endocrine and anatomical changes at puberty but not to aggressive behaviour in entire male pigs. Reproduction in Domestic Animals 40, 500506.
Zamaratskaia, G, Chen, G, Lundström, K 2006. Effects of sex, weight, diet and hCG administration on levels of skatole and indole in the liver and hepatic activities of cytochromes P4502E1 and P4502A6 in pigs. Meat Science 72, 331338.
Zamaratskaia, G, Lou, Y, Chen, G, Andresen, Ø, Lundström, K, Squires, EJ 2007a. Effect of hCG stimulation on plasma androstenone concentrations and cytochrome b5 (CYB5) levels in testicular tissue. Reproduction in Domestic Animals 42, 105108.
Zamaratskaia, G, Gilmore, WJ, Lundström, K, Squires, EJ 2007b. Effect of testicular steroids on catalytic activities of cytochrome P450 enzymes in porcine liver microsomes. Food and Chemical Toxicology 45, 676681.
Zamaratskaia, G, Oskam, I, Ropstad, E, Tajet, H, Andresen, Ø 2008a. Effect of hCG stimulation on hepatic activities of cytochrome P4502E1 and P4502A in entire male pigs. Reproduction in Domestic Animals 43, 147152.
Zamaratskaia, G, Andersson, HK, Chen, G, Andersson, K, Madej, A, Lundström, K 2008b. Effect of a gonadotropin-releasing hormone vaccine (ImprovacTM) on steroid hormones, boar taint and performance in entire male pigs. Reproduction in Domestic Animals (doi:10.1111/j.1439-0531.2007.00914.x).
Zamaratskaia, G, Rydhmer, L, Andersson, HK, Chen, G, Lowagie, S, Andersson, K, Lundström, K 2008c. Long-term effect of vaccination against gonadotropin-releasing hormone, using ImprovacTM mark, on hormonal profile and behaviour of male pigs. Animal Reproduction Science (doi:10.1016/j.anireprosci.2007.07.001).
Zamaratskaia, G, Lou, Y, Peacock, J, Rydhmer, L, Andersson, HK, Juneja, RK, Chen, G, Lundström, K, Squires, EJ 2008d. Effect of polymorphism in the porcine cytochrome b5 (CYB5A) gene on androstenone and skatole concentrations and sexual development in Swedish swine populations. Animal 2, 190196.


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

  • G. Zamaratskaia (a1) and E. J. Squires (a2)


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