At Enrique Tomás, we know that the star product of our gastronomy is unique in the world, and besides offering you top-quality ham, as passionate as we are, we want to impart to you the culture of ham.
That's why we're going to explain to you what Iberian pigs eat so that you can see that they are cared for and pampered from birth because for their meat to be good, they have to be happy.
A good farmer is one who can provide the best quality of life for their pigs!
Feeding of Iberian Pigs
The first thing to consider is that absolutely all Iberian pigs are fed with feed until they reach 100 kilograms. This feed is enriched with vitamins and minerals that help reinforce the animal's bone structure because, since it will gain a lot of weight, it needs a strong skeleton, especially in the legs, which will support a lot of weight.
What Acorns Do Iberian Pigs Eat?
But what do Iberian pigs eat once they exceed 100 kilograms? Hams can be from feed or acorn-fed, and this depends on how the animal they come from has been fed, that is, whether the pig has fattened on feed or acorns and natural products.
Before starting the breeding of pigs, farmers have to decide how many hams and shoulders they want for feed and how many for acorns, also known as "pata negra". Based on this, some pigs will participate in the "montanera" (acorn-feeding period), and others will not. The pigs that undergo the "montanera" will be used to produce acorn-fed Iberian ham, while those that do not will be used to produce feed-fed Iberian ham.
The "montanera" is the period that takes place between October and February, in other words, during the winter, and during this time of the year, the pigs roam freely in the pasture like they own the place. The goal of this release is to allow the pigs to feed freely. They will eat everything they find, from cork oaks to herbs, and, of course, acorns.
Typically, the acorns are in one place, and the wild herbs are in another, so the pigs will move back and forth, which increases their muscle mass. Additionally, since it's cold, they'll need to generate heat, so they'll move from one place to another. However, the fact that the pigs roam freely doesn't mean they are unsupervised.
Farmers closely monitor them to ensure that they all eat well because, just like with us, some are smarter than others, and it must be ensured that everyone is properly nourished. Otherwise, the weaker ones will not reach the required weight and will have to go back to feeding on feed.
The "montanera" is very beneficial for Iberian pigs for a very simple reason: it allows them to easily infiltrate fat into their muscles, and thanks to acorns and the exercise they get during this winter period, the fat penetrates better, making the meat of the ham and shoulders more flavorful. But can white pigs undergo the "montanera"? Does it make sense? It doesn't make sense, but they can do it. Let's see why.
Feeding of White Pigs
Iberian pigs, as we have already explained, both due to their genetics and the conditions of their upbringing, infiltrate fat into their muscles optimally. However, pigs of the Duroc breed or any other breed different from Iberian do not have this genetic condition. Therefore, no matter how much exercise they get and how many acorns they eat, their meat will not be better.
Does this mean they don't have to undergo the "montanera"?
No, this decision depends on the farmer. There's nothing wrong if the pigs freely graze in the mountains, but this increases production costs because they need to be monitored to ensure that they all eat properly. While costs increase, it doesn't change the quality of the product because the meat of the ham will be exactly the same regardless of whether the white pigs have undergone the "montanera" or not.
The only thing that is achieved with this method is that the pigs are cared for in a more natural way, and instead of eating grain feed on farms, they eat acorns and grass in the mountains. Their meat isn't better, but their quality of life improves.
Now that you know what Iberian pigs eat and have seen that they are cared for and monitored in detail...
All that's left is to enjoy their famous Iberian acorn-fed ham or feed-fed ham!