Damages to agriculture across Texas as a result of feral swine problems can add up quickly in areas where the unwanted animals are multiplying at alarming rates. From crop losses, fence damages, contamination of water sources and the potential for the spread of disease, farmers and ranchers are concerned about the escalating problems feral swine pose and the growing costs of dealing with the problem.
But a few Texas property owners are discovering that, like turning lemons into lemonade, feral swine problems can be turned inside out to become a source of non-traditional farm or ranch income.
Leave it to the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans, especially Texans, who can see an opportunity even when one doesn’t seem to exist.
In spite of all the well deserved bad press feral swine have accumulated over the years, there are two reasons that a few (and growing number of) Texans view the wild and wooly creatures in a positive light. The first would be those who either enjoy hunting the creatures or those who accept payment to allow others to hunt them on their property.
Believe it or not, some exotic hunting ranches in Texas charge as much as $900 to target and shoot a large ‘wild boar’. On the low end, hunters pay around $120 to hunt large wild hogs on hunting leases.
The second group of wild swine fans in Texas consists of wild/exotic meat processors and their many customers, mostly from Europe, who favor wild boar meat and often consider it a delicacy. One such “natural” meat company, Frontier Meats of Ft. Worth, markets their popular wild boar bacon to both a growing domestic and foreign buyer base.
In both cases, and in most instances, these ‘wild boars’ are what most of us call feral hogs trapped live on farms and ranches all across Texas and held in specially designed holding pens and sold to buyers for cash.
According to a comprehensive study conducted by a number of academic and government agencies, traditionally the wild boar is a game animal hunted and served in the Northern and Eastern European countries. A taste for this meat remains in Europe. Therefore, Europe is a targeted market for the distribution and sale of Texas feral swine meat.
In the United States, wild boar meat is viewed as an exotic meat served at game meat restaurants, or as a source meat for sausage and jerky products. Therefore, meat brokers catering to the game meat restaurant trade and producers who make a further processed added value meat product are targets for sales efforts.
A fledgling marketing opportunity also exists in the United States. Direct marketing of wild boar meats through select grocery store chains is being tried in a few test markets to gauge the interest for direct sale of individually packaged branded name wild boar meat.
The laboratory testing of the meat derived from the Texas feral swine indicates that on average it tends to carry less fat than normal domestic swine, making the nutritional information labels look more inviting to a health conscious consumer. By using large slaughter and cutting plants such as Frontier Meats in North Texas and Southern Wild Game in Devine (South Texas), the quality of the meat and the cuts can be monitored more closely and presented to the customer in a pleasing format that makes the product more appealing to a final consumer.
It’s interesting to note that wild game meat processors who market wild swine meat are subject to both stringent USDA and European Union rules and inspections.
As far as how profitable trapping feral swine can be for property owners, the latest available numbers indicate the average price per pound for live animals ranges greatly from 20 cents a pound for animals under 100 pounds to as much as 60 cents a pound for larger swine. If the animal is being purchased by an exotic game ranch for hunting purposes, only boars are allowed by state law. And it should be noted that the Texas Animal health Commission (TAHC) requires all holding pens to meet strict guidelines to prevent feral swine from escaping and/or mixing with domestic swine, and strict record keeping is required on all trapped feral swine. Only disease free animals can be sold.
Already, nearly fifty farms and ranches have received permits for TAHC approved holding pens, so it appears that many farms and ranches are beginning to embrace the idea of turning lemons into lemonade—or in this case, wild swine into bacon and sausage.