Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack has an idea.
Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack has a problem with hungry hogs. Houston has a problem with hungry people.
If Radack gets his way, hundreds of pounds of pork soon could be hitting the needy’s tables.
Radack plans to allow a few select bowhunters to begin targeting the thousands of feral pigs that live in George Bush Park and hopes to donate the meat to food banks, churches, homeless shelters or even needy individuals.
“If you could harness this, it could feed so many people it’s unbelievable,” Radack said.
Off-duty county employees have been allowed to trap hogs at the park for more than a decade, and they typically remove about 300 to 400 every year, [Precinct 3 special activities coordinator Mike] McMahan said. The trappers are responsible for removing the hogs and have been allowed to keep the meat.
But those efforts barely have made a dent in a population that swells so quickly that 50 sows could replace all the hogs that were harvested with just one litter each.
Most of the park’s hogs weigh between 50 and 150 pounds, McMahan said. That translates to about 40 to 120 pounds of steaks, roasts, ribs and ham per animal, said Midway Food Market owner Herman Meyer, who processes 700 to 800 wild hogs a year at an average cost of about $60.
Houston Food Bank spokeswoman Betsy Ballard said the organization would be delighted to receive that much meat. But food safety laws could make such a donation difficult. Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman Doug McBride said food banks could not accept the meat unless the hogs were taken live to a processor with an on-site state or federal food safety inspector.
Hunters for the Hungry, a statewide wild game donation program, does not accept feral hogs because it is too difficult to find a processor who adheres to all the state rules, program coordinator Anitra Hendricks said.
“There’s just not any easy way or profitable way to get a group together to do this,” said Barbara Anderson, state director of the Texas Food Bank Network.
Radack said he will find a way to make the donations work if he has to line individuals up to pick up hogs they will butcher themselves.
“If people catch fish out of sewage-infested waters like Buffalo Bayou and eat them, and people eat out of garbage cans because they are hungry, it seems reasonable to me that there is a way to take lean meat of a feral hog out of the woods and put it on people’s tables so they can have a meal,” he said. “There should be a way to do that and I’m determined to find it.”
Sounds like perhaps a change to state law might be needed to make this practical. If so, Friday was the regular filing deadline for new bills, though one can still be submitted if it gets supermajority approval. Be that as it may, I admire Commissioner Radack’s spirit here, and I hope he succeeds in his quest.