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Friedman for feral hogs

As the man once said, Why the hell not?

As meat prices rise, a candidate for agriculture commissioner is proposing beefing up the state’s program to harvest and market wild hog meat in a way he says will create jobs and revenue for Texas.

Kinky Friedman, a Democrat running for the statewide office, said feral hogs are a largely untapped industry that could be a lucrative endeavor for the state rather than a waste of life.

“If you are going to kill a bunch of feral hogs, let’s at least do it for a profit and business for the state,” he said. “To kill all these hogs and let them rot doesn’t make sense.”

Wild pigs are one of the biggest problems for many ranch and landowners in Texas, said Billy Higginbotham, professor and extension wildlife fishery specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

The population in Texas has increased by about 20 percent each year because hogs have the “highest reproductive rate of any large mammal in the world,” he said. Some food banks and small grocers in the state and country sell the meat, which is described by the state’s Parks and Wildlife service as “tasty” and lean.

Land owners and hunters can trap and sell the live animals to about 100 buying stations in the state, which are licensed and regulated by the Texas Animal Health Commission, where they are inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture before the hogs are slaughtered and sold.

The stations sell the meat to processing plants, which sell the pork for human consumption across the country and in Europe and Asia, Higginbotham said.

“Texas is literally able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” he said, adding that 460,000 hogs in Texas were federally inspected, slaughtered and sold between 2004-2009.

The state, however, does not pull any taxes or revenue from the transactions of the buyback program, which is the only of its kind in the country.

Friedman, a songwriter and entertainer, said the program is a good start, but the state should become more involved and broaden the program and rake some of the profits.

I confess that I don’t know much about this program, so I can’t really evaluate Friedman’s idea. That said, the feral hog problem is statewide and well-known, and the steps we have undertaken so far to deal with it, even the more extreme ones, have had little effect. I don’t see how it could hurt to try to encourage more participation in hog control by making it financially more attractive for the state and for interested parties. Even if the effect on the hog population is minimal, as it will likely be, the need for food is real and the potential to do good is there. A little outside the box thinking here is welcome. Kudos to the Kinkster for bringing it up.