IBERICO HAMS LABELS EXPLAINED
What do the colour seals of jamón ibérico mean?
The jamón ibérico is one of the jewels of our gastronomy that can be obtained from ibérico pigs. These pigs, which are native to the Iberian Peninsula, have certain genetic characteristics that provide the pieces with a succulence and an incomparable flavour. It is important to bear in mind that, in order to be able to say that a ham is ibérico, it must have a minimum of 50% purity of this breed.
In some cases, however, belonging to the Iberian breed is not enough. Depending on the category to which the ham will belong, the pig will need to go through its last phase of growth in a unique ecosystem called dehesa, full of trees that produce acorns, which will become the basis of the pig’s diet. This will bring unique flavours and aromas to the ham.
If, in addition, we have the experience of our experts and producers, who will treat the product with care and delicacy, we will obtain an Iberian ham of optimum quality.
It has been two years since the new regulation about jamón ibérico was approved. One of the aspects it included was that jamones ibéricos made as of 2014 had to have a label on its caña that will help us identify its typology.
Which are those colors and what type of jamón ibérico do they correspond to?
There are four colors of Seals: black, red, green and white. We will see which color corresponds to each type of jamón, but before that I would like to explain you the three aspects that differentiate each jamón:
What does it eat?
The diet of the pig is one of the aspects that makes the greatest difference in the final result of the product. An animal that is fed on acorns and natural pastures while it is strolling along a dehesa, is different from one that is fed on feedstuffs in a farm. Their diet provides them with different aspects that we will be able to appreciate on the jamón.
Which breed does it come from?
We can find pigs that belong to the pure ibéricobreed (mother and father 100% ibérico) and pigs that come from crossbred animals (mother 100% ibérica and father Duroc). Duroc is the only breed that is used in crossbreeds with ibérico. It is a type of breed included in the group of white pigs (those which are not ibérico).
Do they live in the open or in farms?
The way they live is usually linked to the type of diet they receive. When a pig is in the open in the dehesas, in which we call extensive grazing, it is usually fed on acorns and pastures. However, if it is in a farm – intensive farming – is normally fed on cereal feeding stuff or legumes. We can also find farms that have an open area and in which pigs are fed on feedingstuff and some additional natural pastures.
These three variables will be useful to understand the types of jamón ibérico, since according to their combination a pig will belong to one category or another:
Black Seal, Jamón de Bellota 100% Ibérico
These jamones come from pigs of 100% ibérico breed that have basically been fed on acorn, pastures and natural resources from the dehesa in the open air. This is the highest category of jamón.
Red Seal, Jamón de Bellota Ibérico
This Seal tells us that the jamón comes from an animal that has been fed on acorn and natural pastures in a dehesa in the open. The difference with the previous one is that these are crossbred pigs, they do not have the purity of ibérico breed. They can be 75% ibérico breed or 50% ibérico breed. In order to know the exact percentage of breed we will have to read its label, where it should be indicated. That is why in this group we will find jamón de bellota ibérico (75% ibérico breed) or jamón de bellota ibérico (50% ibérico breed).
Green Seal, Jamón de Cebo de Campo Ibérico
The green one corresponds to those jamones that come from a pig mainly fed on cereal feeding stuff and legumes, and that sometimes receives additional natural pastures. Its rearing can be done both in extensive or intensive exploitation, provided that they are in the open.
With regard to the breed, it can be 100% ibérica, 75% ibérica or 50% ibérica. In order to verify the breed percentage, as in the previous case, we will have to look at the label.
Included in the green Seal we can find different types of jamón: Jamón de Cebo de Campo 100% Ibérico, Jamón de Cebo de Campo Ibérico (75%Ibérico breed) and Jamón de Cebo de Campo Ibérico (75% Ibérico breed).
White Seal, Jamón de Cebo Ibérico
This Seal identifies the jamones that come from pigs fed on natural pastures in farms (indoors).
As in the green and the red one, in order to know its breed, we will have to look at the label. This Seal includes jamones 100% ibéricos, 75% ibérico breed, 50% ibérico breed.
In the white group we encompass: Jamón de Cebo 100% Ibérico, Jamón de Cebo Ibérico (75% Ibérico breed) and Jamón de Cebo Ibérico (50% Ibérico breed)
It is important that when you buy a jamón ibérico you look at the type and colour of the Seal and its label, not all the jamones ibericos are equal and these colours will help you to make a decision.