Today, more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from. And not only do we need to know how it is produced, but we demand the highest respect for the environment, and when it comes to animals, we also expect comfortable, healthy lives for them.
And although the food industry does not always meet our demands, some agricultural products truly excel in sustainability and animal welfare. Spanish ham is not only one of the most delicious foods globally, but it’s also sustainable.
A UNESCO-Protected Landscape
The finest Iberico pigs, source of the most exclusive Spanish cured hams, roam freely in the country’s flatlands or ‘dehesas’ for the last four months of their lives. Here, the pigs feed on fresh herbs and acorns until they double their size. And although farming is often detrimental to the environment, in this case, it’s the opposite.
Every pig requires 5 acres of grazing land, meaning this is extensive farming, which doesn’t have the harmful environmental effects in intensive commercial agriculture. Besides, the pigs keep invasive plant species at bay, helping the oak forests to thrive.
Spanish Ham is Slow Food
Iberico pigs grown in Spain’s dehesas are a wonderful example of slow food. The ham produced with the pigs is made artistically. And although the process from pig to ham takes months and even years, Spanish ham is considered a fresh, local agricultural product enjoyed in the producing community and beyond.
There’s nothing artificial in the ham-making process. The pigs grow without hormones or antibiotics, and the ham is salt-cured and air-dried with no chemical preservatives. There’s no color or flavor enhancement either; fine cured ham is as good as it gets!
Protecting Agricultural Biodiversity
Protecting Iberian pigs is critical to maintain a healthy biodiversity. Most of the pork consumed today around the world comes from just a handful of breeds; they’re prized for their high yields. Still, without native breeds, we would soon find ourselves in trouble.
Ancestral breeds, even if they’re not the most cost effective for our industrial way of producing food, are priceless and maintaining healthy numbers of them is paramount. The Iberian pig is part of the Sus scrofa domesticus family and differs greatly with the conventional domestic pig or Sus domesticus.
As long as we consume Spanish ham, we’re preserving the ancestral Iberico pigs, which means they’ll surely have a bright future.
Ham production is integrated with all aspects of life, and entire communities depend on the premium product to sustain themselves. Agricultural tourism is a big part of Spanish ham as well, as thousands of visitors every year are part of extraordinary tours of the grasslands and air-curing facilities.
Making a meaningful connection with your favorite ham producers is a life-changing experience and seeing the artisanal process with your own eyes makes every time you have a slice of silky ham much more thrilling!
Spanish ham is beautifully aligned with today’s most pressing sustainability goals. Add to that its fantastic flavor, and you’ll see the cured meat has it all!