While the idea that a food preservative used in bacon could be fed to feral swine to reduce population growth may seem a little odd at face value, it is none-the-less being considered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for just that purpose.

Sodium nitrate is the common salt preservative used in bacon and other types of meat, a substance that has little or no negative effect in people because the human body is rich in enzymes that stop the nitrate from preventing red blood cells grabbing oxygen from the system. But wild animals, including swine, do not produce the same kind of enzymes in sufficient number, so sodium nitrate might serve as an effective poison if target species consume enough of it.

The idea isn't a new one. Sodium nitrate has been used in both Australia and New Zealand for years to help control spiraling feral swine populations. USDA testing could take place in Texas later this year, according to Bryan Black with the Texas Agriculture Department.

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Officials say for sodium nitrate to be effective, wild pigs would need to digest large amounts of the substance over a short period of time. If they do, the sodium nitrate can induce symptoms and results similar to carbon dioxide poisoning. Feral swine become uncoordinated, lose consciousness and eventually die.

TDA officials say they are committed to working with Texas Parks and Wildlife officials in finding a way to reduce feral hog populations across the state. Wild swine are credited with causing as much as $500 million in economic damage in Texas every year. Texas’ feral swine growing population already numbers well over two million. Texas, in fact, can lay claim to having nearly as many feral swine in the state as the total number of feral swine in the remaining 38 states with damaging wild hog populations.