Understanding Iberico ham classification

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Meet the new Rock Stars, Jamon Carving Champions

carving Iberico ham

Somewhere in Spain, a flashy sports car arrives at a hotel, this chap folds himself out of his low slung car, sauntered into the hotel with attitude, sporting the requisite incognito sunglasses, in rock star fashion. His has a holster full of special carving knives. It’s not some film star.

He’s the new breed of rock stars in Spain. He is a Jamon Carving champion. These guys are masters of their game. They have trained hard and excel at the Jamon carving competitions.

This was the image that was painted in my mind after a conversation with Rafael of the BBC. He had just done a film for the BBC on the annual jamon carving championships.

In Spain, jamon carving is a honed skill that takes many years to perfect. It takes time to learn to make the perfectly thin slices around the bone of a leg of ham. Jamon must be hand carved, thinly and evenly. No slicing machine is allowed anywhere near these exalted legs of Iberican pork.

It must be the proximity of the iconic Jamon Iberica that makes this new breed of

Do we understand the Spanish reverence for their jamon?

Iberico ham event The Spanish Ambassador

At the a recent Iberico Ham event at the Spanish embassy, the Ambassador jokingly introduced himself as the “Hambassador”. These highly prized ham is so revered in Spain and is one of the most important food exports.

Iberico ham (11)

What makes Iberico Ham special?

Iberico ham

Iberico ham is made from a special breed of pigs from the Iberian Peninsular. It is the perfect animal as it has a unique structure of fat and meat and its ability to store fat in muscle. It is also perfectly suited to the hilly environment of the dehesa. After at least 24 months of hanging, the resulting product is a ham that is tender with soft melt-in-your-mouth fat with very high percentage of mono unsaturated fat.

Understanding the classification of Iberico Ham

Iberico ham black label
Black label Iberico ham

Since January 2014, they introduced a new classification for this premium product. by royal decress This is to ensure the conservation of the Iberico breed and the Dehesas. It is also to clarify the different products on sale and for consumer protection too.

There are 4 categories to the classification of Iberico ham.

Black Label – Jamon 100% Iberico de Bellota

  • This is the top category made with 100% pedigree Iberian pigs
  • 100% acorn fed
  • Free range, the pigs are allowed to roam around the dehesa
  • 1.25 pigs /ha
  • must be at least 14 months before slaughter
  • The ham is cured for at least 24 months

Red Label – Jamon Iberico de Bellota

  • The breed is a mix of Iberico and Duroc.
  • This is also acorn fed and free range
  • 1.25 pigs /ha

Green Label – Jamon Iberico de Cebo de Campo

  • This pig is at least 50% Iberian,
  • Allowed to roam freely outdoors
  • Fed a compound of grains and fodder.
  • 15 pigs/ha
  • Age at slaughter 12 months

White Label – Jamon Iberico de Cebo

  • This pig is at least Iberian and Duroc (50%-75)
  • Reared in enclosed pens
  • Fed a compund of acorns, cereals and grass.
  • Age at slaughter – 10 months

Iberico ham (44)

Not all Patra Negra (Black Hoof) is Iberico Ham

When people talk about Jamon, sometimes they like to use Patra Negra interchangeably (like a clueless TV chef who shall remain unnamed). This is not accurate as not all black footed pigs are Iberico Pigs. This name has been misused by a lot of jamon producers to position their lower quality products as a premium product. Unsuspecting retail customers are often fooled by this as the differentiation and classification is not widely understood.

In Spain, Patra Negra means excellence and top of one category. In Iberico products, this denomination only applies to the Bellota 100% Iberico.

Next time you venture to your Spanish Deli to buy your ham, watch out for the certification labelling to make sure you are paying the right price for the quality of Iberico ham that you are buying.


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