Iberian Pigs are distinct for their long snouts, long legs, and long floppy ears. What is more prominent is their black hooves and dark hair. Iberian pigs are native to the West of Spain and they have a close relation to wild boars, thus they are semi-wild. Their body is designed for exercise, hence they have high fat to meat conversion ratio. However, they do not have much weight compared to other pigs, they are not appreciated.
Some hams native to the Spanish people such as Iberico Ham and Dehesa de Extremadura are made with products of Iberico pig. While food writers focus mainly on the use of its hind legs for hams, it has been discovered that every part of the pig is useful.
Iberico pigs are left to graze in the wild for acorns. Acorns fall during the montanera period, as such, it’s the best time to leave the pigs to graze. Each hog needs about 1 hectare of forage to graze on.
The meat of Iberico pig is scored according to their eating habits and pattern.
Here are the scores in ascending order:
Jamón Ibérico (de cebo aka pienso or de campo [cebo and pienso meaning fodder.)
Jamón Ibérico de recebo [recebo meaning gravel, implying barnyard];
Jamón Ibérico de bellota [bellota meaning acorn];
The de Bellota score is gotten from Iberico pigs that are fed with commercial feed until the age of 14 to 15 months, that is when they weigh 90kg and 200 pounds. Then, they graze on acorns and pasture grass until they reach slaughter weight of 160 – 190kg (350 – 420 pounds).
The de recebo score is from Iberico pigs that are fed with commercial feed until they weigh 90kg (200 pounds), then fed a mixture of acorns, pasture grass, and commercial feed until they reach slaughter weight of 160-190kg (350-420 pounds).
The “de Bellota” and “de recebo” scores are left to live and graze in oak groves. This practice is similar to how pigs are raised everywhere until the end of the Middle Age. The Iberico pigs are left to feed on whatever they find in the oak grove, especially acorns. The pigs are left to graze on acorns in the autumn when they are able to eat about 11kg (25 pounds) of acorns on a daily basis for three months.
The acorns are further converted into oleic acid, the same acid in olive oil.
The “de campo” or “de cebo” score pigs are mainly fed commercial feed.