If you want to discover how to tell if a ham is acorn-fed Iberian or grain-fed Iberian, you've come to the right place because at Enrique Tomás, we're going to provide you with all the information you need to know.
The first thing to consider is that both types of hams come from Iberian pigs, but grain-fed hams come from pigs fattened with feed, while acorn-fed Iberian hams are also raised freely in the meadow, although not until their final fattening phase. Finally, there are acorn-fed Iberian hams, which are obtained from pigs that are fed acorns, plants, and herbs during their last months of life.
Acorn-fed Iberians graze and roam freely in the meadows, which, combined with their ability to infiltrate fat, makes their meat more tender than grain-fed Iberians, and their fat is juicier and of a more translucent tone.
But can you discern the differences between the two types of hams at first glance? Yes, and we're going to tell you how.
How to Tell If a Ham Is Acorn-Fed Iberian or Grain-Fed Iberian
The new regulations for Iberian ham came into effect in 2014, and according to these regulations, the labeling for Iberian breed must indicate how the pigs from which the hams are obtained were fed.
Ham Label Colors
Therefore, at Enrique Tomás, we have three types of labels differentiated by colors:
- Black Label: It is used for hams from purebred Iberian pigs. These are 100% acorn-fed Iberian hams.
- Red Label: This label is assigned to acorn-fed hams with a 50% purity of the breed.
- Green Label: This is the new category called grain-fed Iberian. Hams and shoulders from Iberian pigs that have been fed in three phases: feed and cereals, freely in the meadow with acorns and herbs, and final fattening with more feed.
White Label: This color is used for shoulders or legs from Iberian pigs fed with feed.
Just like us, any master ham cutter must indicate in the labeling whether the pieces are Iberian or not, and in the latter case, whether they are grain-fed or acorn-fed.
If, for any reason, you don't fully trust the information provided on your ham, don't worry, you can verify it yourself in a very simple way by looking at the ham's fat and inserting your finger into it. If it shines, and you can easily pierce it with any of your fingers, the Iberian ham will be acorn-fed. If you can't do this, it's grain-fed.
Now, Is it equally easy to differentiate between an Iberian ham and a non-Iberian ham? Yes, let's see why.
How to Tell If a Ham Is Iberian or Non-Iberian
We've talked about the labeling of Iberian ham, but it's essential to note that this labeling, which indicates the type of Iberian, also reveals whether the ham comes from pigs in our peninsula or not. However, there are several factors that can help you check for yourself and become an expert ham connoisseur:
- Shank: The shank is the narrowest part of the ham that connects the area where all the meat is to the hoof. Hams from white pigs have a wider shank, while the shank of Iberian hams is narrower.
- Elongated Shape: Iberian ham legs are more stylized and longer than those of white pigs, so when determining what type of ham you have, you should primarily focus on this. If you see a thicker shank and a flatter leg, it's non-Iberian, whereas if it has a thinner shank, and the piece, in general, is more elongated, it's Iberian.
V-Shaped Cut: Iberian hams have a V-shaped cut right where the shank ends, and this factor can also help you differentiate them.
In addition to these, there's another factor that people often pay attention to, the hoof, but it's essential to note that it's not definitive. Generally, the hooves of Iberian pigs are black, which is why they are commonly known as "black hoof hams," but this physical factor doesn't always apply. There are Iberian pigs with white hooves, just as non-Iberian pigs can have black hooves, as is the case with Duroc breed.
The five types of ham at Enrique Tomás
In summary, to determine if a ham is Iberian or not, pay attention to the shank, the shape of the leg, and the V-shaped cut. To determine if a ham is grain-fed or acorn-fed, pay attention to the labeling, the shine of the fat, and the ease of piercing it.
You'll find that discovering how to tell if a ham is acorn-fed Iberian or grain-fed Iberian has never been so simple. Although we're talking about hams, it's important to note that the main photo accompanying this article is of a shoulder, to which the same conditions detailed here apply.
Nevertheless, if you're eager to taste the difference in grain-fed, free-range, and acorn-fed Iberian ham, we recommend trying any of our products at Enrique Tomás stores.