Sports
The virtues of wild pork
By Luke Clayton
Feb 4, 2019
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As an avid outdoors writer with a passion for hunting and cooking and eating game meats, I enjoy the flavor and nutritional value of everything from elk to javelina (if cooked properly) but hands down, my favorite is wild pork.  The statement, ‘pork is pork’ might be a bit misleading.

 The flavor of the meat from a pen raised and fattened ‘market’ hog compared to one that makes its living roaming the wild is vastly different. Both feral hogs, European boar (Sus Scrofa) and those roly-poly pen fattened porkers share the same genetic makeup; they are all of the pig family. We hunters often refer to hogs with long snouts, wooly coats, heavy shoulders and small hams as ‘Russian or Eurasian Boar’ but in truth, it would be next to impossible for free ranging sounders of hogs to be pure wild boar or ‘Russians’. Hogs interbreed in the wild and almost without exception, free ranging hogs are never true wild boar, ie. Russian or European boar.

Wild hog numbers are very high across much of the state. Why not put some of this 'free' meat to good use in the form of BBQ, roasts and steaks! photo by Luke Clayton

Wild boar meat comes with a hefty price tag at top end restaurants that serve game meats. Its flavor is vastly different from domestic pork, it’s richer in flavor and much leaner. Wild hogs have to use their muscles for making a living in the wild opposed to domestic pigs that spend their time eating in relatively tight quarters. Cooking methods differ also, often requiring longer cooking periods with liquid and lower heat than domestic pork. 

In an average 3.5 ounce serving, wild pork has only 55 MG of cholesterol, 26.1 grams protein, 5.2 grams saturated fat. Cholesterol levels in domestic pork is about 71 MG, protein is 16.6 and saturated fat a whopping 22.5 grams. In further comparison, wild pork has less cholesterol than chicken. Wild pork is just good for you, plain and simple.

With all the hunger in the world, including the U.S., I truly wish that our plague of too many wild hogs could be turned into a bounty for feeding the hungry but I understand the logistics of such and endeavor. There is cost associated with butchering, wrapping and distributing game meat.  Granted, organizations  exist that fund butchering wild hogs and distributing the meat to the poor but the practice is definitely not at a level that makes a big impact nationwide.

My opinion of wild hogs varies greatly from a farmer that is raising hay or planting a few hundred acres in corn. Probably because of my raising, I continue to look at wild porkers as a quality meat source. But if their presence directly impacted my livelihood, I’m positive I would be the first to try to remove the source of my losses. In the real world, there is no way that we can reduce the number of hogs by at least 40 to 50 percent each year, just to keep the numbers where they are today, and put all that meat to good use.

Hunting alone will never keep wild hog numbers in check but hunting in conjunction with the use of state-of-the art traps certainly reduces their numbers. Companies such as Wild Boar Meats purchases recently killed wild hogs for pet food and live trapped hogs for butchering and ultimately human consumption. I’ve seen wild boar prices of upwards of $30 per pound for boneless steaks. Google the price of wild boar meat and I bet you will be surprised at the cost.

I’m quite sure that if my Dad was still around today, he would take advantage of all the ‘free’ wild pork roaming the woods and fields today rather than spending the time ‘feeding out’ six or eight pigs each year. When you stop to think about it, most of the wild pigs we kill today have been eating corn. The pig’s excellent nose tells it where hunter’s corn feeders are located and as any deer hunter will tell you, once the pigs find the corn, they will push the deer out to get to the tasty kernels.

Back to actually cooking and eating wild pork, many people simply have no idea as to how to prepare the tougher, wild pork. Younger wild hogs weighing 100 pounds or less can actually be cooked much as the same as domestic pork but chances are good the fat content will be much less, regardless the side of the hog and this often requires slow cooking in moisture for longer periods.

You might remember my column from a couple weeks ago when I wrote about hosting a writers hog hunt on a ranch in east Texas. My writer buddies traveled from all over the US to the hunt and left me with the pork. I took the field dressed animals to Kubys Game Processing and had a lot of sausage made but I also had thick cut ‘double’ pork chops cut from all the porkers. There were a couple of 180 pound boars that some folks would think were too big and ‘rank’ to make tasty pork. Not so! I took a dozen or so of the thick pork chops and seasoned them with a good dry seasoning then placed them in my Smokin Tex electric smoker and exposed them to wild plum wood smoke for a couple hours. I then placed the chops in an aluminum pan, added a few slivers of jalapeno, some slivers of fresh garlic and a liberal amount of BBQ sauce. Wrapped in aluminum foil, I set the thermostat on my smoker at 190 degrees and let the chops slow cook all night. The next morning, I deboned and made pulled pork BBQ from the meat. I can truly say the BBQ turned out as good as any brisket I’ve enjoyed at my favorite BBQ restaurant. The meat actually looked and tasted more like beef brisket than domestic pork. Hopefully this week’s column will fire you up and get you out in the woods with the intent to reduce those pesky wild hog numbers and, fill your freezer with tasty organic protein in the process!

Listen to ‘Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends’ weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas or anytime online at www.catfishradio.org