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Threshold Detection of Boar Taint Chemicals Using Parasitic Wasps

Authors

  • Dawn Olson,

    1. Author Olson is with Crop Protection and Management Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, United States Dept. of Agriculture, P.O. Box 748, Tifton, GA 31793, U.S.A. Author Wäckers is with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, LEC, Lancaster Univ., Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. Author Haugen is with Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquacultural Research, Osloveien 1, NO-1430 Ås, Norway. Direct inquiries to author Olson (E-mail: Dawn.Olson@ars.usda.gov).
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  • Felix Wäckers,

    1. Author Olson is with Crop Protection and Management Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, United States Dept. of Agriculture, P.O. Box 748, Tifton, GA 31793, U.S.A. Author Wäckers is with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, LEC, Lancaster Univ., Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. Author Haugen is with Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquacultural Research, Osloveien 1, NO-1430 Ås, Norway. Direct inquiries to author Olson (E-mail: Dawn.Olson@ars.usda.gov).
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  • John-Erik Haugen

    1. Author Olson is with Crop Protection and Management Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, United States Dept. of Agriculture, P.O. Box 748, Tifton, GA 31793, U.S.A. Author Wäckers is with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, LEC, Lancaster Univ., Lancaster LA1 4YQ, UK. Author Haugen is with Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquacultural Research, Osloveien 1, NO-1430 Ås, Norway. Direct inquiries to author Olson (E-mail: Dawn.Olson@ars.usda.gov).
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Abstract

Abstract:  Surgical castration has been long used to prevent consumers from experiencing taint in meat from male pigs, which is a large problem in the pig husbandry industry. Due to obvious animal welfare issues, the EU now wants an alternative for castration, suggesting an urgent need for novel methods of boar taint detection. As boar taint is only a problem when taint chemicals exceed a well-defined threshold, detection methods should be concentration-specific. The wasp, Microplitis croceipes’ ability to learn and respond to particular concentrations of the boar taint compounds, skatole, androstenone, and indole was tested. Also tested was the wasps’ ability to discriminate between known concentrations of indole, skatole, and androstenone in real boar fat samples at room temperature. Wasps were trained using associative learning by providing food-deprived wasps with sucrose–water in the presence of specific odor concentrations. Trained wasps’ responses were tested to a range of concentrations of 3 compounds. Wasps showed unidirectional generalization of learned concentration responses, whereby the direction of concentration generalization was shown to be chemical-dependent. Through both positive (sucrose) and negative feeding experiences (water only) with varying compound concentrations, the wasps can also be conditioned to respond to concentrations exceeding a defined threshold, and they were successful in reporting low, medium, and high concentrations of indole, skatole, and androstenone in boar fat at room temperature. The need for threshold detection rather than simple detection of absence/presence applies to many food quality issues, including the detection of spoilage or pest damage in crops or stored foods.

Practical Application:  An inexpensive and reliable means of detecting boar tainted pork at slaughter to avoid tainted meat on the market and dissatisfied consumers.

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