The Iberian pig is an animal of the porcine breed, the name also applies to varieties belonging to what is known as the “Iberian trunk”, which includes black and red, furry or hairless breeds.
The Iberian pigs, predominant in the Iberian Peninsula shared between Spain and Portugal, are highly appreciated animals in the gastronomic sector as they produce the famous Iberian ham and different types of sausages.
The Iberian pig
The Iberian pig is a unique species with characteristics that differentiate it from other animals of the same species, such as the ability to infiltrate fat in the muscle.
Physically speaking, these animals have a well proportioned head and a pointed muzzle. Unlike other types of pigs, the Iberian has a powerful neck, a drooping dewlap, medium sized ears in the form of a visor and a large belly. Its extremities, the ones we are most interested in when talking about ham, are thin.
The Iberian pigs, as their name suggests, belong to a breed native to the Iberian Peninsula, located between Spain and Portugal, where there are two groups of breeds listed below:
- Celtic pig (practically extinct)
- Iberian Pig
- Iberian black layer, which includes the varieties Lampiño and Entrepelado.
- Iberian red layer, which includes the varieties Retinta or Colorada, Rubia de Cádiz, Manchada de Huelva and Torbiscal.
The most widely used variety in the world of ham is Retinta or Colorada which, in addition to being very prolific, allows for greater use after slaughtering the animal. So, the most important thing to know is that the Iberian pig is a native breed of animal. Its physiological capacity to store fat between muscles makes it have a high gastronomic value.
The Iberian pigs are the only pigs in the world from which it is possible to obtain Iberian ham, a product with a very particular aroma, flavour and texture, also healthy and nutritious.
Iberian Ham and products
In the production of Iberian ham, not only the breed (which is fundamental) is important, but also the process of breeding the animal. Although in theory all pigs are used to make ham, only the so-called white pig and the Iberian pig are used to make ham.
The latter is the key piece in the production of Iberian ham. The different types of ham and Iberian products are given by the percentage of purity of the animal’s breed and the food it has fed on.
According to the legislation governing the production of Iberian ham, the designation’Iberian pig’ includes all pigs whose mother is 100% Iberian. All this, it is registered in the herdbook of the Iberian pig breed. The offspring of this pig, and therefore the products produced from them, can have different percentages of breed purity: 50%, 75% or 100%.
Then, the products that we can obtain from Iberian pigs must always indicate the percentage of purity of the pig’s breed and when it comes to hams and ham shoulders, these must be identified with the colored bridles according to their diet:
- white bridle - Iberico de Cebo
- Green bridle - Iberico de Cebo de Campo
- Red bridle - 50 or 75% Iberico Bellota
- Black bridle -100% Iberico Bellota or Pata Negra