Authorities in Texas have signed off on plans to control the growing feral hog population that includes trapping and cooking the critters to feed to the hungry at local food banks.
The pigs will be trapped at George Bush Park and Congressman Bill Archer Park in Harris County, Texas, where they are threatening native wildlife and vegetation, according to Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack who came up with the plan and called it a "gift from God," according to ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston.
"There may be as many as 8,000 to 10,000 feral hogs in each of the reservoirs," said Mike McMahon with the Harris County Commissioner's Office, which today approved the purchase of four four-acre metal pens to trap the hogs.
After being captured, the pigs will be taken to a processing plant, J&J Packing Co, where they'll be inspected by a Department of Agriculture officer before being slaughtered. The meat will be sent to the Houston Food Bank.
On Tuesday, the commissioner's Office signed a one-year contract with the processors for $217,600, according to the AP. The county estimates in that year it will be able to eliminate roughly 2,500 hogs, which will each produce around 40 pounds of meat.
"This is a huge win for everybody in all the communities that we serve," said Dr. Pamela Berger with the Houston Food Bank, who said she is excited to receive the hog meat.
Tom Harvey from Texas Parks and Wildlife said the state has a long-standing issue with wild hogs, which were introduced to the state some 300 years ago by Spanish explorers as domestic farm animals. Through the years, some pigs escaped and continued to “breed prolifically,” creating the feral population problem today, he said.
“Basically we’re losing the war against feral hogs, while our native wildlife continues to lose their habitat,” Harvey told ABC News. “They do a number of things that are problems: they root in sensitive areas, they trample wetlands, they defecate in water sources and they displace native wildlife.”
Harvey says that historically, hogs were a nuisance mainly in rural areas, but have recently begun encroaching on suburban and city areas. The department gets "very few reports" of attacks on humans, he said.
Numerous efforts to trap feral hogs over the years have failed to curb the growing populations, which people can legally hunt year-round, provided they have a license and are not trespassing, Harvey said. Parks and Wildlife even introduced its own campaign in 2012 promoting the consumption of wild pigs, including providing a recipe for feral hog tacos on their website.
The USDA warned that "unlike domesticated pigs, wild hogs are more prone to trichinella and toxoplasma parasite infections, but with proper food handling and preparation procedures can be safely consumed.
Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends cooking raw pork chops and roasts at a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees Farenheit, as measured with a food thermometer, before removing meat from the heat source. It also suggests allowing the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.