As you may already know, most of Iberian Pigs are raised free in the countryside, in the so-called “dehesas” where holm oaks grow. These type of trees provide pigs with delicious acorns, but only in autumn and winter. For that reason, depending on what iberian pigs eat before they are slaughtered, they will be classified differently. Their diet is one of the most important details farmers must take care of.
First of all you must know that iberian pigs grow and gain weight quite fast. Most of them are slaughtered when they are 1 or 2 years old and around 150kg (330 pounds). The last period of their life is called “engorde”, period in which they gain most of their weight. It is during this last period that eating grass, grain or acorns makes a huge difference.
Regular Iberian Pigs
These type of pigs are farmed in barns or in very close areas. Most of the food that these pigs eat is fodder grain.
These animals get fat quickly and farmers recover their investment fast since they can sell them earlier. In exchange, the taste and the quality of the cured meat is not the best. This is because the animals do not exercise enough. Besides, the acorn or grass flavours cannot be appreciated when tasting the ham.
Free Range Iberian Hams
These animals are raised free in huge lands with pastures and oaks. They run free and exercise all they need to. It is possible that they eat some acorns they find in the countryside, but most of the weight they gain comes from grass, roots, plants and some grain as a complement.
The slaughter can take place any time of the year, but mostly at the end of spring, insummer and at the beginning of autumn as the acorns only fall in autumn and winter.
Acorn-Fed Iberian Hams
In this case, pigs go through the “engorde” (gaining weight) process in autumn and winter. It is at this time of the year when acorns fall mostly from oaks, holm oaks and gall oaks. These pigs are also considered free range as they can only get the acorns in the pastures and woods. Besides, they also eat grass, roots and many different plants and bushes.
As a result of this type of diet, the flavour of the meat is more intense and it has its unique nutty flavour. These pigs are slaughtered in winter and at the beginning of spring.