Iberian ham comes from Iberian pigs, that are grown in a special way, that makes the meat have a unique flavor. In the Iberian, Peninsula pig are grown up in large fields where they walk around feeding on acorns until they reach a certain age and are harvested.
“The black Iberian pig lives primarily in the central and southwestern region of the Iberian Peninsula, which includes both Portugal and Spain. In Spain, the Black Iberian Pig is typically found in the provinces of Huelva (Denomination of Origin Huelva), Córdoba (Protected Denomination of Origin Valle de Los Pedroches), Cáceres, Badajoz (Protected Denomination of Origin Dehesa de Extremadura), Salamanca, Ciudad Real and Seville. In Portugal, the central and southern regions have an abundance of this species, with a predilection for the Alentejo region. In Portugal, the Black Iberian Pig is commonly referred to as or Porco Alentejo. The Black Iberian Pig is ingrained in the local Portuguese culture and tradition, with annual festivals in their honor, such as the Feira do Porco Preto, an annual festival in the region of Ourique.
The hams are labeled according to the pigs’ diet and the percentage of the pigs’ Iberian ancestry, with an acorn diet and pure-bred Iberians being most desirable. The current labeling system, based on a series of color-coded labels, was phased in starting in January 2014.
- The finest is called jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn). This ham is from free-range pigs that roam oak forests (called dehesas) along the border between Spain and Portugal and eat only acorns during this last period. It is also known as jamón ibérico de Montanera. The exercise and diet have a significant impact on the flavor of the meat; the ham is cured for 36 months. This grade is divided into two subtypes:
- Black label — Identifies jamón 100% ibérico de bellota produced from pure-bred Iberian pigs fed as above.
- Red label — Identifies jamón ibérico de bellota from free-range pigs that are not pure-bred, but also fed exclusively on acorns during the final period. Since 2014, the percentage of Iberian ancestry in the animal must be specified on the label.
- The next grade is called jamón ibérico cebo de Campo. This ham is from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of acorns and grain. As of 2014, this ham bears a green label.
- The third type is called jamón ibérico de cebo, or simply, jamón ibérico. This ham is from pigs that are fed only grain. The ham is cured for 24 months. As of 2014, this ham bears a white label.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jam%C3%B3n_ib%C3%A9rico
If you are interested in learning more about the Iberian Ham and it’s production system you can check this link: