Perhaps you already know that the most exclusive Spanish ham or jamón comes from Iberian pigs that roam freely in the country’s flatlands feeding on acorns. And although the ham’s extraordinary flavor and texture are evident, we live in a day and age where we not only care about a product’s quality but also for its sustainability.
After all, sourcing environmentally friendly food is paramount if we want to preserve the planet and guarantee our well-being. So, are acorn-fed pigs sustainable? Is the air-cured ham production aligned with today’s environmental standards? Read all about it.
The Acorn Diet, A Long-Lasting Tradition
Feeding pigs with acorns is nothing new. In fact, allowing the pigs to roam freely in oak forests is the closest thing to the animal’s natural diet. Acorns are critical in wild boars’ diet and allowing domesticated pigs to eat out in the open might even go back for 15,000 years when the Mesopotamian culture first domesticated wild pigs.
Today, pig farmers around the world are adopting the ancient tradition of growing free-range pigs. The trend is gaining popularity in England, Italy, Hungary and even in the new world, where Texan cattle farmers now grow pigs in the state’s plentiful oak forests.
Now, some of the best hams are authentic gourmet gifts along with other delicacies like spanish sheep Manchego cheese, marcona almonds, salami, bucatini, brie cheese, panettone, pirouette cookies, prosciutto, cheddar, hoagie and fine crackers. They're all indispensable in any gift basket. Acorn ham is noble like that, and it’s now a world phenomenon.
Good for the Environment
Scientific evidence has shown that allowing pigs to feed on the wild is healthy for the environment. The pig’s omnivorous nature keeps invasive plants at bay while allowing hardwood forests to regenerate. The pigs’ activities also improve the soil naturally through their manure.
Keep in mind Iberico pigs are not grown massively in commercial-scale operations but in an extensive rather than intensive fashion. Industrial farms pollute the water and contribute to global warming, but free-range pigs have no such impact on the environment.
And although large numbers of pigs can endanger delicate or compromised environments, as seen with the pigs introduced to Hawaii, pigs involved in the Spanish cured ham production are in balance with the ecosystem.
Great for the Animals
The pigs benefit from feeding on acorns freely as well. They enjoy plenty of fresh air and sunshine and are not confined to small spaces, which reduces stress and anxiety. Spanish Iberico pigs live happy, stress-free lives and they’re allowed to behave naturally in the country’s grasslands or ‘dehesas.’
Pigs grown with this hands-off approach are also healthier and need not antibiotic or hormone treatments; they grow strong and fatty naturally and have the opportunity to live a normal social life. In Spain, pigs feed on acorns for approximately four months and eat an average of 17 pounds of acorns every day. They double their size during this time.
Acorn-Fed Pigs Are Indeed Sustainable!
The traditional way of farming pigs is without a doubt a sustainable practice that we should all embrace and support. Allowing the pigs to meander freely is not only good for their well-being but the environment, and the result is more than evident.
Spanish cured ham is distinctive and much healthier than any other alternative on the planet. To think that doing the opposite to what the current food industry does and switching back to extensive, traditional farming is the way of the future is exciting. As more pig farmers worldwide catch on with Spain, the brighter the future will be; for all of us!