Forty male commercial hybrid pigs, half castrated at 10 days of age, were used in a study to determine whether boars at bacon weight (90 kg live weight) have different fat quality from barrows. Fat quality was defined as the firmness and cohesiveness of subcutaneous fat, both properties being measured using an Instron materials testing instrument. Within each group of boars and barrows, half the pigs were fed a normal commercial diet and half a lower energy diet at a lower level of food intake. The latter diet provided relatively more energy as C18:2 (linoleic acid).
Firmness of subcutaneous fat was related to fat thickness and to concentrations of the chemical components in the fat which are affected by fat thickness. The single best predictor of firmness was C18:0 (stearic acid). Cohesiveness was less closely related to fat thickness and was most associated with the concentration of C18:2.
On the low energy/high C18:2 diet, all the pigs were judged to have soft fat, the difference between boars and barrows being small and explained by the difference in fat thickness. On the normal commercial diet, some barrows had particularly firm fat but they had thicker fat than any of the boars. Most (0·84) of the pigs in the experiment had P2 values (fat thickness over the m. longissimus at the last rib) between 8 and 15 mm. In this range there was no difference in firmness between boars and barrows. Cohesiveness was also similar between boars and barrows.