Novel Biosensor for Electro-Optical Detection of Boar Taint

Period of Performance: 01/01/2003 - 12/31/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Opto-gene, Inc.
6759 Mid Cities Avenue
Beltsville, MD 20705
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Physically castrating pigs costs the pork industry as much as 30 percent of added value or about $1 billion annually. Immunologic castration, therefore, has significant commercial potential. Pork for human consumption that contains undesirable levels primarily of the steroid androstenone and/or the metabolite skatole has an unpalatable taste, known as "boar taint." Castration of pigs shortly after birth eliminates the source of androstenone, but also removes testosterone. Loss of testosterone means less feed conversion, weight gain, percentage of carcass weights, tenderness of the meat, and a higher fat content. Pigs can also be castrated immunologically with a commercial vaccine, which helps avoid the loss of testosterone and can minimize androstenone levels. Skatole can be controlled by environmental and dietary factors. The vaccine is a natural product with no residual effects. After vaccination, however, certain animals may not be effectively castrated. We estimate the potential market for an immunosterilant vaccine in the US to be about $300 million and the market for an androstenone and skatole test to be at least $150 million. These costs will be more than offset by the value gained from the use of immuno-castrated boars.