What is Iberico Pork: Everything You Need to Know about Iberico Pork from Spain

Perhaps you watch a lot of food shows and have seen them talk about Iberico pork. It is a famous food, on a par with food items like truffles. Due to the length of time it takes to produce Iberico pork, and the issues with shipping it to countries like the US, it can be costly to buy, easily ranging into the thousands.

If you find the opportunity to get some Iberico pork, it is definitely worth trying. Its unique taste and texture make it a one-of-a-kind treat that you may never get to try again.

Perhaps you want to know more about Iberico pork and what makes it so unique, delicious, and rare. Keep reading to learn more about this delicacy.  

What Makes Pork Iberico?

Iberian pigs are found only in the Iberian Peninsula in both Spain and Portugal. They are very old pigs, tracing back to over 12,000 years ago. Several different pig breeds are all raised in similar ways and share the same geographical area. For this reason, though they are different species, they are all listed in the same group of Iberico pigs. 

Iberico pork has a unique look compared to most other ham and pork products. Instead of a pale pink or white color, Iberico pork is often a deep red and is marbled with fat. It traditionally looks more like raw beef.

Top-quality Iberico pork will cure for a minimum of three years. There are several types of pork cuts you can get from Iberico pigs.

  • Pork belly
  • Shoulder loin
  • Shoulder steaks
  • Ribs
  • Pork rack
  • Tenderloin.

Different Kinds of Iberico Ham

Black

  • Entirely fed with acorns
  • Both parents fully Iberian
  • Aged at least three years after slaughter
  • Best quality
  • Also known as Pata Negra
  • Less than 10% of all Iberico pigs

Red

  • Entirely fed with acorns
  • Mom 100% Iberian
  • Dad either Iberian or not
  • Aged at least three years
  • ~10% of all Iberico pigs

Green

  • Fed a mix of acorns, pasture, grain, and feed
  • Mom 100% Iberian 
  • Dad doesn’t have to be Iberian
  • Aged at least three years
  • ~20% of all Iberico pigs

White

  • Majority of its feed is commercially fed. 
  • Mom at least 100% Iberian
  • Dad doesn't have to be Iberian
  • ~60% of all Iberico pigs

What Does Iberico Pork Taste Like?

Iberian pigs are often referred to as olives on legs. The acorns provide a nuttiness that makes it stand out from other foods. The best way to describe it is a taste similar to olive oil mixed with a nutty taste. 

Most people don’t do much more to season it than a little salt, to not lose the unique taste if they get raw Iberico pork. However, more often, it is eaten after being cured for three years, and nothing needs to be added to it. 

The meat is soft, and the fatty parts easily melt so it isn’t difficult to chew on. It is considered to have a velvety texture that easily melts in the mouth due to its high-fat content. 

The high amount of fat doesn't however equal unhealthy meat. In fact, due to their diet, the fat marbled into the pork is monounsaturated oleic acid, which helps your body fight bad cholesterol and is good for your heart. It also contains antioxidants and tyrosine which help with anti-aging due to a better condition of blood vessels and regenerating cells. It is also high in vitamin A, vitamin E, and iron.

Final Thoughts

Iberico pigs are taken care of according to very special guidelines. Only 1.25 pigs per hectare are allowed in an oak grove, and each pig can eat up to 10kg of acorns a day. Essentially, they are treated like royalty until it is time to slaughter them. 

The higher quality, Iberico pigs are let out to eat only acorns for the last few months of their life, and can easily double their weight in that time.

Per year, Spain produces three million Iberico pigs. This may seem like a lot, but in total, Spain alone produces over 50 million pigs, and only those three million can be marketed as Iberico pigs, and less than 10 percent of all of those pigs get that rare black tag that is considered a delicacy. 

Iberico pork is not cheap by any means, but if you have the funds and the opportunity, it is well worth trying once. It is a delicacy with a unique taste that goes through a specific growing and curing process to be able to promote the best flavor. 

The black labeled Iberico pork is the best quality and will be a taste and texture you never forget as long as you live, even if you only try it once.

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