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NEWS: Jamón Ibérico (Pata Negra) Arrives In The U.S.

People who have eaten jamón Ibérico (Iberian ham) in Spain have waxed poetic about the artisan dry-cured ham of southwestern Spain that has been called the “Rolls Royce of ham.” But it has not been available in the U.S., because of a USDA concern about the processing conditions. After USDA officials inspected and approved specific facilities in Spain, Santiago Martin of Fermin USA obtained USDA approval two years ago to export the ham to the U.S. and began taking $200 deposits for 15-pound hams that cost $780.00. A wait list of 300 people—restaurants, retailers, and consumer enthusiasts—plunked down their money. Finally, after a 10-year effort to import the product, the first hams have arrived. There are three different types of Jamón Ibérico:

1) Jamón Ibérico de Pienso, or simply, Jamón Ibérico is made from pigs that are fed only grain. The ham is dry-cured for 24 months. This is the ham that has just arrived. A 9-pound boneless ham is $800.00, or about $89.00 a pound. With bone-in, it drops to just $52.00 a pound (but weighs 15 pounds, hence the $780.00 price tag). This is the ham commonly served at tapas bars (and now you know why those slices are so thin!).



  Jamon Iberico de Bellota

Is it worth $96 a pound? Yes—Jamón Ibérico de Bellota has amazing, complex flavor. The good news is, it’s eaten only a few fragile slices at a time, like carpaccio—maybe an ounce’s worth.

2) Going up a level, Jamón Ibérico de Recebo is made from pigs that are pastured and fed a combination of acorns and grain.


3) The ultimate ham experience—we call it the kobe beef of ham—is Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, made from free-range pigs that roam oak forests along the southern border between Spain and Portugal and eat only acorns (bellota means acorn). The result is meat with a marbling of rich, golden fat. The ham is cured for 36 months—a very long time enabled by the high fat content and the antioxidant quality of the diet. At $96.00 a pound, these $1,400 luxury hams are expected to arrive in July 2008. So if you’re looking for that ultimate holiday gift, you can give the recipient a box of acorns and a card…and you’ve got until July to come up with the cash. The hams are available through

The hams are more popularly known as pata negra, or “black hoof,” a casual name for the Ibérico pig (which is all black). They are the last free-ranging, free-grazing pigs in Europe, roaming the dehesas, the oak forests, of southwestern Spain. For more information about jamón Ibérico, visit or get Jamón news at If you don’t care for the price tag (and we certainly don’t blame you), visit our Pork, Ham & Bacon section for some less costly, yet delicious, hams.

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