Wild hogs are also known as feral swine. They measure 5 to 6 feet long and adult hogs can weigh more than 200 pounds. Wild hogs are found in more than 35 states with a population of more than 4 million. They usually travel in relatively small family groups or alone. These animals are difficult to control as they always find their way to people’s properties and farms where they destroy crops. Private property owners may bait them using corns and either release them on public land or kill them for food. The wildlife agencies have allowed hunters to hunt wild hogs as part of the population control measure. The hunters use legal-to-own rifles, crossbow, bow , shotgun or pistol to take down the wild pigs.
There is a lot of controversy on the safety of eating wild hogs. However, just like any wild animal that does not receive proper attention and care, they are prone to zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted to humans. According to research, wild hogs can be eaten without posing a great danger to human health. However, proper cooking procedure and hygiene practices must be observed. This article will provide the best methods of cooking hog’s meat, and discuss the diseases you can contact from infected wild pigs. In addition to that, safety measures that you can take to keep off such infections will also be outlined. This way, you can eat a wild hog and enjoy the meal without risking your health.
1. Cooking Methods
In order to eat a wild hog, proper cooking techniques must be observed to ensure that the meat is well cooked and still retains its juicy taste. Meat from wild hogs is leaner and has more flavor than the ordinary pork. Nevertheless, despite these differences, you can cook both wild and ordinary pork in a similar way. These methods include barbecue, roasting, hot and fast, and braising and stewing. Here is the outline of how you can safely prepare the wild hog’s meat.
- Traditional Barbecue
Traditional barbecue is one of the most interesting ways to cook wild hogs. Whole animal or pieces of meat are slowly cooked over coals as the smoke enriches it with sweet flavors. The method also avoids the lean meat from toughening to make eating wild hog easy. Before placing the meat in the barbecue, it is brined to keep it moist as well as add flavors to it. While cooking the whole hog, you require to have a large cooking pit, that can either be commercially acquired or locally made by improvising cider blocks.
An ordinary barbecue or smoker is enough to cook smaller pieces of wild hog’s meat such as a shoulder. The traditional barbecue provides a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly lower. Under this temperature, a shoulder takes approximately eight to 12 hours to cook while a whole hog takes approximately 14 to 18 hours. However, smaller meat cuts take as little time as three to four hours to get ready before you can eat a delicacy from a wild hog.
Wild pigs are also safe to eat and have delicious flavors when roasted. Since wild pork is lean, it should be roasted at lower temperatures (225 to 250 F) than the ordinary pork. This slow-roasting technique makes the meat to be tender and juicy. Temperatures of 145 F are suitable for tender parts such as the loin and ribs, just like regular pork and other domesticated animals. Tougher meat cuts such as the leg and shoulder taste better when roasted slowly at temperatures of 180 F or higher. The high temperature softens the muscles and ensures that the tough connective tissues in these parts are dissolved. You should remember that the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends you to cook game animals at temperature of 160 F or higher to ensure that any pathogens are killed in the process.
- Hot and Fast
The tender parts of a hog such as the loin, and rib sections taste good when grilled, fried or broiled under high temperature like in other cooking methods. The advantage of this method to the other aforementioned above, is that you achieve the meat leanness within a shorter time. You do not have to wait for many hours before you can eat a wild hog’s meat. The tenderloins can be broiled or grilled while whole. However, they can sometimes be sliced into medallions before grilling. Similar to pork chops, the rib and loin chops are prepared the same way, taking approximately one to two minutes to cook because they are lean. A loin roast with about a quarter inch layer of fat can be roasted at a temperature of 425 F until its internal layers achieve a temperature of 145 F.
- Braising and Stewing
Yes, you can eat stew and braising from a wild hog! Braising and stewing is a beneficial alternative to slow roasting and barbecuing tough cuts from shoulder and leg. Both cooking techniques simmers the wild hog gently for hours until it becomes tender. Basically, the only difference between these methods is the terminology. Braising is used when you are cooking a single large cut, while stewing is used when the cuts are fork-sized. In both cases, you brown the wild hog first before placing it in a slow cooker or an oven with a prepared sauce or wine. After some hours, the meat becomes very tender and delicious. The strained cooking liquids once thickened becomes a fine and tasty sauce.
2. Diseases they Carry
Wild hogs can transmit diseases, bacterial and viral, to other animals and humans. There are over 24 diseases that humans can contract from the wild hogs. In addition, the wild pigs carry more than 45 different parasites, both internal and external. This should not scare you as they are not dangerous infections. The most significant zoonotic diseases include brucellosis, E. coli, Rabies, Salmonellosis among others. Most of these diseases attack people if they handle infected or eat undercooked meat from the wild hogs. Also, the diseases are transmitted indirectly through contaminated water sources and ticks.
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease spread among the wild hogs through semen and birth fluids. The infected hogs carry these bacteria all their life-time. Humans contact these bacteria trough contact with an infected hog’s fluids, blood or tissues. These tissues include liver, testicles, muscles and other internal organs. Also, you may contact the disease if you consume undercooked meat from an infected wild hog. Victims start feeling sick a week to a month after coming into contact with the bacteria that cause brucellosis.
- Low appetite
- Muscle and joint pain
Once you have detected these symptoms after contacting with a wild hog, you should see a doctor immediately. Blood tests should be done to check for brucellosis.
- Take antibiotics to kill the bacteria in the body. The dose should be taken for at least six weeks.
- Follow the doctor’s prescription to avoid contacting the illness again.
- If not treated, brucellosis could result in serious problems with the heart, joints and bones. However, the disease is rarely fatal.
Escherichia coli is a bacteria found in the intestines of both animals and humans. Not all E. coli are dangerous. However, there is a strain of the bacteria that is pathogenic to humans and causes food poisoning. The pathogen is transmitted through ingestion of food contaminated with small amounts of fecal matter. It is also transmitted to domestic swine and the livestock.
- Abdominal cramps
- General body weakness
To diagnose illness caused by E. coli, stool samples are tested for presence of E. coli bacteria.
There is no treatment to cure infections caused by E. coli. One only relieves the symptoms and also prevent complications. However, it is advisable not to take anti-diarrhea medicine as it slows down the digestive system. In most cases, the treatment includes:
- Taking fluids to avoid dehydration and fatigue
Salmonellosis is a bacterial disease transmitted through ingestion of Salmonella bacterial through food. It is also transmitted to domestic swine and other livestock. Humans contact the infection by eating contaminated food that has not been well cooked. Also, well cooked food can transmit the infection if it gets contaminated after preparation.
- Abdominal cramps
Similar to E. coli, Salmonellosis can be detected by testing a sample of your stool for presence of the pathogen in the alimentary canal. In most cases, patients recover from the symptoms fast before they can even receive the results from the doctor.
Since the patients suffer from diarrhea, they lose a lot of body fluids. The salmonellosis treatment aims at replacing the lost electrolytes and fluid to prevent the patient from dehydration. In severe cases, one may require to be hospitalized and fluids injected intravenously into the bloodstream. The general treatment recommended by your doctor include:
- Use of antibiotics to boost the immune system in case the doctor suspects that the bacteria has entered the bloodstream. However, in complicated situations, antibiotics are not effective.
- Use of anti-diarrheal to relieve cramping. However, they may at times prolong the diarrhea caused by salmonella infection.
Safety Concerns and Disease Prevention when consuming feral swine
“Prevention is better than cure”.
Here are simple measures that you can take to prevent infections when handling wild hogs.
- Do not contact wild hogs that look sick or those found dead.
- Always use clean and sharp knives when butchering and dressing in the field.
- When handling carcasses, always wear proper eye protection and latex or rubber gloves to prevent pathogens from entering the body through torn cuticles and cuts on hands.
- Bury or burn disposable gloves after use and any inedible body parts from the hogs to avoid scavengers or dogs from feeding on them as it may lead to disease transmission if the hog sick.
- Clean thoroughly all reusable gloves and tools used in butchering and field dressing with dilute bleach to disinfect them.
- Avoid bare skin contact with organs or fluids from the hog splashing into your mouth or eyes.
- Wash hands immediately with warm water and soap and dry them with a clean towel, even if you had worn gloves.
- Use the correct methods of refrigeration, freezing and cooking meat from the wild hog. Temperatures below 0oF will only freeze the meat and render the bacteria and parasites inactive without destroying them. They become active again when the meat is thawed. However, cooking thoroughly at internal temperatures of 165oF to 170oF will kill all parasites and bacteria in the hog’s meat.
- Keep raw pork separately from cooked pork and other foods.
You can eat wild hogs! Their meat is even more delicious pork than the ordinary pigs due to their lean body. Their method of preparation is also similar to that of other domestic animals. However, during preparation, one should ensure that the cooking temperatures go above 160 F to ensure that pathogens are destroyed. This means that even if the wild hog was infected, its meat is safe for consumption after proper cooking. Freezing and refrigeration, however, does not kill the pathogens. Instead, it inactivates them for a period of time. In case you contact any of the zoonotic diseases, you should seek immediate medical attention to avoid having severe health complication. However, as you have read above, none of the common infection is fatal. Just observe good hygiene, cook meat properly and enjoy eating wild hogs.