Feral hogs have become the most damaging pest for farmers and ranchers in a growing number of Texas counties, annually costing landowners millions of dollars in lost crops, ruined fences, contamination of water sources and potential for passing along diseases to domestic livestock.
A new approach may include looking at the invasive pests as a revenue source. A few Texas property owners are discovering that feral swine problems can become a source of non-traditional income.
In spite of all the well deserved bad press feral swine have accumulated over the years, a growing number of Texans see two reasons to consider feral hogs in a more positive light. The first would be hunt the creatures or to accept payment to allow others to hunt them on their property.
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 a popular wild boar bacon to both a growing domestic and foreign buyer base.
In both cases, and in most instances, these feral hogs are 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. Wild boar meat remains popular in Europe,. a targeted market for the distribution and sale of Texas feral swine meat.
In the United States, wild boar meat is viewed as exotic served at game meat restaurants, or as a source meat for sausage and jerky products. So meat brokers catering to the game meat restaurant trade and producers who process the meat further to create an 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.
Laboratory testing of Texas feral swine meat indicates it tends to carry less fat than 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.
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.