Plan to use feral hogs as food halted amid safety concerns
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri will not move ahead with a plan to process feral hog meat to help feed poor people after conservation officials said the invasive animals don’t meet food safety standards.
The Missouri Department of Conservation sends the nonprofit Conservation Federation of Missouri a state grant annually for its Share the Harvest program, which allows deer hunters to donate venison to poor people.
But this year, the conservation department left $300,000 budgeted for the program on the table after lawmakers required the money to be spent on processing feral hog meat in addition to deer meat, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Instead, the department plans to use $125,000 from another fund to pay the Conservation Federation in March. Lawmakers have forbidden money from that fund to go to the federation, so a court fight is possible.
“They (lawmakers) wanted to double the amount (of money) and they wanted to also include feral hog meat, which we’re not going to do that for obvious reasons,” said Aaron Jeffries, deputy director of the conservation department.
The Department of Conservation is governed by the independent Conservation Commission.
Feral hogs are considered problematic because they reproduce rapidly and root up land across much of southern Missouri.
The Department of Conservation discourages hunting the hogs, saying that when one is shot, the rest of their group scatters, making it harder to capture large groups of them.
Still, hunting persists. Despite some hunters butchering the hogs as food, officials are opposed to distributing the meat on a mass scale.
“Feral hogs carry several diseases so I’m not sure why we would want to provide an inferior food product to families in need,” said Lucas Bond, spokesman for the Department of Conservation.
The Missouri House, in a plan spearheaded by then-state Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, added feral hogs to the program last year.
“This is a great source of protein for these individuals,” Ross said at the time. “Right now, these hogs that are trapped, they are shot and they are left to rot.”
At the same time lawmakers approved the feral hog program, they removed funding to allow Missourians on the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program buy fresh produce at farmer’s markets. The House had previously set aside $100,000 to create the program.
House Democrats objected to both moves.