Eating The Invaders
Wild boar were brought to the United States in the 16th century by the Spanish, and have been here since. In Florida, as in all States, they are troublemakers. Wild boar cause innumerable problems to fragile ecosystems and property. They have been known to root up and eat crops. They damage pasture grasses and will dig up sod and pasture to eat the tender roots underneath. They will break fences, dig up irrigation systems, and destroy farm structures.
Aside from agricultural issues, feral swine can ruin personal property, culturally significant sites like graveyards and burial grounds. They have been known to contaminate water sources. They will prey on the nest, eggs, and young of nesting birds and reptiles. They have been documented as predators to small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. In short, wild boar are about as destructive as a species can get.
Here in Florida, they are so numerous that a hunting license is not even required to harvest them. You can hunt them with crossbows and compound bows, high-powered rifles or black powder rifles, shotguns, handguns, with dogs, or without dogs.
The good news is, wild boar taste delicious! Wild boar, or "razorbacks", taste very similar to their domestic pig cousins. We think that they have a slightly more robust taste, but without any "gamey" flavors. They can also take on a variety of different flavors, since they must forage for their foods. If they're chowing down on some poor farmer's orange grove, then some of that sweetness may come through in the meat. They're also much leaner than domestic pork, mainly because they have to work hard to eat in the wild.
As a chef, you must be careful about your approach to using invasive species on the menu. We have both the power to solve problems and create problems. A recent success story is that of the invasive lionfish, a voracious predator that wreaks havoc on Florida reef systems. By popularizing the fish on restaurant menus, chefs created a demand for the fish and larger chains like Whole Foods Market met that demand. Divers are now harvesting larger numbers of lionfish to supply grocery stores and the reef benefits from the demand in the end.
But let's look at the flip-side of that situation. If people started farming lionfish (or in our case, wild boar), we end up with even more of a problem than we started off with. So the chef and consumer must be informed about the source of their product - even if it is marketed as an invasive species.
We've found a unique operation in the Texas hill country that harvests wild boar in their natural habitat - a truly wild animal. They hunt the boar with suppressed high-powered rifles and have the USDA inspect the animals in their on-site mobile refrigerated trucks.
We use this wild boar to make breakfast sausage in The Hunt Club boxes and we're also doing some interesting stuff with it in our CSA Butcher Subscription boxes. Let us know what you'd like to see and we'll do our part in reducing wild boar numbers - one bite at a time.