What is the female gender of the ox

Flesh and its gender

Whether we eat females or males is not just a matter of taste.

When it comes to pork, it is well known that a boar is not exactly a delicacy. And with cattle, too, we know that the female is used for dairy farming and the ox is used for fattening. Otherwise, individual parts of the meat are often known, whether it is the meat of a female or a male animal is usually lost. Although that is not always completely irrelevant.

In the case of broilers - with the exception of specialties such as the capon (see above) - it makes no difference whether they are males or females. Castration is not necessary simply because conventional broilers are slaughtered well before they are sexually mature. Thanks to increasingly efficient breeding, a chicken is ready for slaughter after around 35 days.

It is of course different with laying chickens. It is well known that the male chicks are killed as soon as they hatch - and it is being criticized more and more. Since these are breeds specially bred for laying performance, these chicks are not profitable for fattening. But because that makes consumers feel uncomfortable, the industry is currently trying to find another way. In the organic sector, the male chicks are reared separately for nine to twelve weeks and processed into organic sausage, for example. “You can do that in the organic sector, these are more critical consumers. But that is not economical for the masses, ”says Michael Wurzer, Managing Director of the Central Working Group of the Austrian Poultry Industry (ZAG). He therefore sees the future in early detection using infrared technology, in which the sex can be determined in the egg, and then this is destroyed before the chicken embryo develops a pain sensation. For Wurzer, this is the right way to go, primarily for ethical reasons. Intensive research is currently being carried out with colleagues in Germany. Incidentally, Wurzer takes animal welfare very seriously and is happy that caponising is prohibited in Austria.

Boar odor. For fattening pigs, on the other hand, neutering is common. In Austria this is done with painkillers, although this is not required by law. In contrast to cattle, for example, both females and (castrated) males are used in fattening pigs. This in turn has to do with the frequency of the offspring, as Christian Draxl from the Austrian pig testing institute explains. "A cow only gets one calf at a time, the probability of whether male or female is 50:50, as is the case everywhere," says Draxl. So a high percentage of the females are needed for breeding - in addition to being used as dairy cows. A pig, on the other hand, usually has around twelve piglets per litter. So both sexes are used for meat production. The meat differs depending on gender. Male (castrated) animals grow faster, the meat is fatter and has better marbling. “The advantages and disadvantages cancel each other out,” says Draxl. In the case of belly meat, for example, the lean meat of female animals is currently preferred.

Castration is necessary in pigs because some animals have an unpleasant boar odor that makes the meat unusable for consumption (at least in this country). Sex hormones are to blame for this. Not every boar has this “meat defect”, as Draxl calls it. Since research is not yet ready to test this beforehand, all male pigs are castrated for economic reasons. Whereby this boar odor is not perceived as negative everywhere. “There are also areas where this is appreciated, for example in England. This is because the meat is used there for raw sausages. When cooking, which is more common with us, this smell spreads massively, ”says Max Hörmann from the Austrian Chamber of Agriculture. With cattle, on the other hand, this is less of a problem. Here, oxen are mainly used for fattening because the females are needed for breeding and dairy farming. The males used for meat production are castrated not only because the meat is tastier, fatter and better marbled, but also because bulls are not entirely harmless when kept.

("Die Presse", print edition, 13.03.2016)