Missouri feral hog hunters soon should be able to donate the meat to local food banks.
The recently passed state budget bill that is on its way to Gov. Mike Parson includes an expansion of the Share the Harvest Program, which will allow hunters to donate feral hogs in addition to deer to local food banks.
Under the program, the state pays meat processors to prepare the animals for donation to food pantries and other agencies that feed those in need.
The measure also doubles the amount of money the state is putting toward the program, from $150,000 to $300,000.
“We’ve all heard about the meat shortage that is going on. This is a source of nutritious protein. So there can be a use for this meat as we are working to eradicate these feral hogs,” said state Rep. Robert Ross, a Republican from Texas County in south-central Missouri.
Feral hogs have caused problems in rural areas, including destroying farmland, trashing forests and killing plants and animals in the wild. They have no natural predators and breed quickly.
Curt Hobson, owner of Hobson’s Butcher Block in Licking, which is one of the participating processors in Share the Harvest, said he likes the idea. But he warned that some of the wild pigs don’t make for prime cuts.
“People have got to understand: If they go out here and kill an old boar hog, that meat is not going to be good. It’s going to stink. Their meat is pretty rank,” Hobson said.
But he said young feral hogs and most sows can provide quality steaks and bacon, and the less desirable ones will still make good sausage.
Dale DeLong, a Phelps County farmer who has trapped dozens of feral hogs on his property over the past few years, said he likes the way they taste.
“Some people say they wouldn’t eat wild hog. You know what the difference is between a wild hog and a farm-raised hog? One’s on one side of the fence and one’s on the other side,” DeLong said during a public forum on feral hogs. “Bacon tastes the same.”
There's still debate over hunting the nuisance animals. It’s illegal to hunt them on Missouri Department of Conservation land or in the Mark Twain National Forest. Officials there said that trapping is much more effective and that hunting can actually hurt control efforts.
Ross said the feral hog problem is getting worse, and while trapping is good, it’s not enough. He wants their hunting to be legal across the entire state. But he said short of a change in policy, both entities should take a close look at the expanded Share the Harvest Program.
“I think the Department of Conservation and Mark Twain National Forest should take advantage of this program and donate feral hogs they trap,” Ross said. “The food banks are in need, and this will help.”
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl
Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org