Ok, this is kind of a complicated question and I'm pretty ignorant about this, but please chime in if you are familiar with this subject. I was watching Hogs Gone Wild on netflix, and granted the drama is probably amped up for TV, but they explain that wild pigs are 1) an invasive species, 2) multiplying like crazy, 3) quite aggressive and terrorizing some neighborhoods (much like wild turkeys in other parts of the country) and farms, and 4) they have no natural predators to control their numbers.
SOOOO, my question is: why aren't humans their natural predators? What is it about the food distribution infrastructure/laws/habits of wild pigs that makes eating them, as opposed to their domesticated (less healthy, raised in much worse conditions) brethren, so difficult?
How can we better control the feral hogs numbers, while giving people healthier meat options to boot?
I eat the heck out of wild hog. In fact, Monday I just finished off 4lbs of leftover wild pig from my hunting partner's cookout last Saturday.
The biggest problem with hogs is that they are a lot like us, they breed wantonly, don't really care about their environment, and will do anything they can to their environment in order to thrive. The difference is, every sow is an Octomom, leaving 4-8 little destructors in her wake, and since many of them are actually feral modern-breed domestic pigs, they have evolved from breeds that have short gestation periods (many sows can litter twice a year).
Mix that, with the traditional Spanish hogs that were deposited here in the 1500's and left to "wild up" for the last half-millennia, and you have a aggressive, invasive, hungry little monsters. Breed like rabbits, feed like locusts.
Here in Florida, they tear up the clover to eat the roots, leaving the deer to starve... they eat all the acorns leaving the squirrels/raccoons to fend for themselves, and they have even been known to lay waste to alligator/turtle nests, as well they will eat birds eggs, snakes, whatever they can get.
So yeah, I shoot, clean, and eat pigs - and do so as much as my skills will allow. Sometimes with boars, you will get some musty/musky flavors due to various things (mostly hormones, but also pathogens/infections from the cuts and scrapes associated with fighting other boars and their dirty tusks). You can brine out most of that funk though by doing a two, maybe three-stage brine (cold salted water, changed out 2-3 times over two days within 6 hours of killing). I like any smokehouse treatment for boars, that strong gamey funk goes well with smoke. I normally toss boar organs, or grind them and give them to my dogs... not paleo, I'm sure, but it's too hardcore even for my very adventurous palate.
Sow and piglet is almost always clean, mild, with a slight sweetness that you don't get with commercial pork (or even heritage/organic/pastured pork for that matter). I keep this around for unsmoked sausages, chops, etc... and use the organs for sausages. Since I'm now eating some starch again, the next sow I get will have her liver converted into boudin blanc.
People do eat them. Feral hogs are a staple in many countries. I know in Korea, hunting feral hogs was long done with a small pack of well trained dogs and one hunter with a knife. The dogs would track and corner it and heckle it until it was tired. Then the dogs would try to hold it while the hunter ran up and slit its throat. But these days the hunters use guns instead. Those hogs are very dangerous but they are easier to catch up with than more docile game species and they have a ton of meat on them. I have seen shows on tv where some in the United States also hunt and eat em. They are said to be quite tasty and if the food they ate was not contaminated, then I am sure their meat is quite healthy.
The problem is most people would not hunt one on their own. And they ARE dangerous. And you have to know how to clean and prep and store them and that is a big job. To do it commercially there are umpteen requirements to legally sell meat, including having an inspector at the site of the slaughter. Because of laws, commercial sale of feral hog meat is complicated and expensive. And catching them isn't easy either.
Like the others have mentioned, people do eat them and are therefore predators of feral hogs. They are pretty prolific breeders though, so rates of harvest may not be high enough to outpace reproduction. The issues that arise from selling any wild game meat can be complex (link). Most wild game falls into a gray area outside the scope of the USDA. Wild boars would be classified as pork and do fall within the jurisdiction of federal inspectors but that means they would have to be slaughtered at an approved facility. There may also be local state regulation regarding wild game meat. Aside from that it may also be a matter of low relative demand and people's sqeamishness about eating wild game.
One word about this: COOK IT WELL!! Trichinosis is usually not that bad of a parasite, but you are more likely to get it if you are eating game vs. farmer fed. 90% of the time you are symptomless, but every once in a while you get someone with a severe reaction.
One young guy in my community got a lung hemorrhage for eating undercooked wild hog, and he had odd symptoms from it for a few years after the infection. He developed a sort of speech impediment, apparently it can cause some CNS damage, so that is kind of terrifying. But really really rare. So yeah, save the rare-cooked tenderloin for your friendly, local farmer-raised pigs to avoid completely!
Have a relative down in the low country in South Carolina where the feral pigs are a huge problem. In my aunt's words "they get in the fields and they just tear sh*t up." Much like hunting wild boar, it seems like the biggest problem is that they are potentially dangerous to the hunter. When I asked her if people were eating them, she seemed to think that they had to be butchered with care in order to ensure the meat remained suitable for human consumption, but details were hazy. She said some guys went out with dogs (Catahoula leopard hounds, which in my experience are dead fearless) and used the hounds in the way Eva describes -- the dogs found and tired the pig, then the owner shot it.
MY grandfather and uncles shoot a few in my grandfather's orange groves In Florida every year. I asked my grandfather to save me the lard next time. :-D
You have to be careful about parasites so they're definetely a low and slow full cook kind of meat but it's quite delicious.
In Austin, there's a guy selling wild hog meat at the Barton Creek Farmer's Market. He says he traps them on a ranch where they are a problem. Then they haul the hog to a processor for slaughter and butchering.
I've had a couple cuts so far: loin, and shoulder. Dee-licious. He said he has some ribs, I can't wait to try them.
I've been surprised at how fatty the cuts are. I've eaten all of it. I thought wild game would be lean. Maybe hogs get the wild version of the "cafeteria diet" around here.
I understand that Texas has a system for handling the transfer of hogs from the wild to commercial markets. They can be trapped in large portable corral traps, then trailered and hauled to an approved butcher. I have not heard of other states adopting regulations or policies necessary to make this feasible yet.
I have killed and eaten several wild hogs in South Carolina and they are excellent. In most states hunting them is very inexpensive and sometimes almost totally unrestricted, but if you hire a guide or pay for access onto private lands, then the cost really jumps. I am taking my son on a hunt in Georgia for his graduation present in March, and expecting great success.
I posted this awhile back. You might find the information interesting. It's regarding "feral" hogs in Michigan.
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