HOUSTON – Feral hogs are a problem in Texas, as KPRC 2 has reported extensively over the years. Many hunters and trappers are doing their best to rid the state of these destructive creatures, and there’s plenty of meat to show for their labors.
But can you and should you eat that meat?
We’ve wondered that a time or two and have seen a few warnings about doing so. We decided to dig in to this tasty topic and see about eating feral hog meat.
Can you eat feral hog meat?
Feral hogs -- or wild hogs as they’re sometimes called -- are descendants of Eurasian wild boar and released or escaped domestic hogs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that more than four million wild hogs are found in at least 35 states and can destroy farmland and crops, compete with native wildlife for food, and can spread disease to other animals and people.
The hogs can be eaten for their meat, but you need to harvest and process them safely.
Hunting wild hogs is a popular sport among hunters, as well as a population control method supported by wildlife agencies. The hog meat is a viable food source, though you need to be careful with it. There are more than 24 diseases that people can get from wild hogs, the CDC notes. Most of these diseases make people sick when they eat undercooked meat. But brucellosis -- a risk factor with feral hog meat -- is different. The germs that cause brucellosis are spread among hogs through birthing fluids and semen. Infected hogs carry the germs for life. People may get the germs through contact with an infected hog’s blood, fluids, or tissues (such as muscles, testicles, liver or other organs).
You may be at risk for brucellosis if infected hog tissue, blood or fluid, comes into contact with your eyes, nose, mouth or a skin cut. You can get sick when field dressing an infected hog or when butchering or eating undercooked meat. The CDC notes you may start to feel sick a week to months after coming into contact with germs that cause brucellosis with symptoms like fever, low appetite, chills, fatigue, sweating, joint pain, headache and muscle pain.
To protect yourself, avoid all contact with visibly ill animals or those found dead, use clean, sharp knives for field dressing and butchering, wear eye protection and rubber or latex gloves (disposable or reusable) when handling carcasses, avoid direct contact (bare skin) with fluid or organs from the hog, burn or bury disposable gloves and inedible parts of the carcass after butchering, wash hands as soon as possible with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or more and dry hands with a clean cloth, clean all tools and reusable gloves used in field dressing and butchering with a disinfectant—such as dilute bleach.
How do you handle feral hog meat when preparing it to eat?
The CDC recommends these food safety tips:
- Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds or more.
- Clean surfaces often with hot, soapy water.
- Separate raw pork from cooked pork and other foods.
- Cook pork to an internal temperature of 160° F using a food thermometer.
- Chill raw and cooked pork promptly. For more information on Food Safety, visit: www.foodsafety.gov.
“Feral hogs make great table fare,” Texas A&M Agrilife Extension’s website adds. “However, always use a meat thermometer to ensure an internal temperature of 160°F has been reached and the meat is thoroughly cooked.
What does it taste like?
KPRC 2 photographer and wild hog hunter Byron Nichols said the animals taste a lot like domestic pork, but with a slightly gamier taste.
He explained the females are what are usually eaten, though the males can be eaten, too. The males’ taste is even gamier, especially if they’d run during the hunt.
Nichols said the smaller to medium-sized hogs are better-tasting. Though you can eat pork chops and ribs alone, Nichols said he likes to mix the hog meat with deer meat for sausage. He also makes hog stew meat.
He said he likes to soak the animals’ meat in vinegar on ice for days to achieve a specific taste.
“It’s a little gamier than domestic pork, but you wouldn’t really know,” he said.
If you’re a hunter
You do not need a hunting license to hunt feral hogs in Texas if you are on private property with landowner authorization. Here’s more information.
If you have too much meat
As we know from crazy photos like this, feral hogs are MASSIVE. If you can’t eat all the meat, you can give it away to help the hungry in the Houston area. KPRC 2 learned about Feral Hogs for the Hungry. The organization said on its website that it is “supported by donations from caring hunters and trappers who capture live feral hogs and deliver them live to local participating USDA inspected slaughter houses.”
The organization adds that food banks cannot accept feral hog meat that has been harvested by hunters. By federal law, feral hogs must be inspected “pre and post mortum” or alive and dead in order to confirm its safety. Hunters are allowed to eat their own feral hog meat, but they cannot donate it to food banks.
Where to buy it in Houston
If you want to taste feral hog or what many restaurants call wild boar, you can try it at these Houston-area restaurants.
Moon Tower Inn - Wild boar hot dog
Pete’s Fine Meats - On the menu, listed in the Exotics menu.
Bistro Le Cep - For dinner - Wild Boar Medaillon de Marcassin a l’aigre-doux
Irma’s Southwest Grill - Wild Boar Sausage, Wild Boar Tamale
La Griglia - Wild Boar Chop ‘Gallagher’
Patagonia Grill & Cafe - Argentinian Cheese & Meat Plate (Picada-Tapa, Family Style) 48 Mixed tapa with Prosciutto di Parma, dry wild boar salami, Patagonia venison salami, Gouda cheese, Malbec cheese, Parmesan cheese, Roquefort cheese, olives, hard-boiled eggs, quince, figs & nuts
Rainbow Lodge - Wild game mixed grill - grilled venison and elk, Texas quail and wild boar chop, buttery mashed potatoes, asparagus, mostarda, game sauce
Da Marco - Pappardelle, wild boar, pecorino toscano
King’s BierHaus - Wild Boar - Blueberries, Merlot Wine, and Brown Sugar
Beloved recipes for feral hog meat
“People shouldn’t be afraid to eat wild pigs. They’re very lean. The meat’s very good, but you have to take precautions just to be safe,” Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Wildlife Specialist Billy Higginbotham said in an article by the Texas Farm Bureau.
Here are a few online feral hog/wild boar recipes with favorable reviews:
Do you eat feral hog meat? Why or why not? If you do eat it, join the conversation in the comments and let us know how you prepare it.