Property-destroying feral hogs being trapped near two reservoirs will be butchered and the meat donated to food banks.
Harris County Commissioners on Tuesday approved a one-year, $217,600 contract with J&J Packing Co. The contract takes effect in May and involves a processing facility in Brookshire, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Commissioners also approved the purchase of metal panels to complete four traps to be erected near the Barker and Addicks reservoirs in west Harris County.
Commissioner Steve Radack's longstanding plan to eliminate, or at least sharply reduce, the feral hog population comes as part of a federal grant.
"This is the beginning of (the) Harris County hog program in earnest," Radack said. "As meat prices go up, we'll be giving it away."
Radack's precinct last year won a $630,000 grant to pay for a study assessing whether hog removal improves water quality, as well as to purchase four metal traps and fund the slaughter and processing of 2,500 pigs.
Radack's office has an agreement with the Houston Food Bank to receive and distribute the meat.
Brian Mesenbrink, a wildlife disease biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture branch, says the agency is "not against any legal method when it comes to controlling feral hogs."
The trap-and-process concept -- "tried in small little operations here and there" -- has proved short-lived in other places, mainly because of the cost, according to Mesenbrink. "It's actually very expensive," Mesenbrink said, noting that "you don't get to pick which ones go to market."
Feral hogs can carry quite a few diseases and even federal inspectors do not examine every piece of meat, Mesenbrink said.
"It's like Russian roulette," he said. "It's great publicity while it works, but the minute something goes wrong, the minute somebody gets sick, there's going to be all hell to pay. No one thinks about that going into it. They just see the fuzzy and warm side of it."
Radack dismissed the disease concern, saying hunting and eating feral hog is far from uncommon. He believes the precinct will be able to secure additional grant money to continue it or people will "donate to the cause" once they see the effectiveness of the program.
Hays and Caldwell counties in Central Texas last fall offered a $5 bounty for each feral hog bagged by hunters. Some counties are funding bounty programs through private donations and state grants.