How can you know which ham to buy?

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It's no secret that Iberian ham is the culinary star during the holidays in Spain, whether eaten as a family for personal consumption, or when it is given as a gift that is truly premium in all respects. However, sometimes the question arises as to which ham to buy and which has the best appearance and taste, which will depend on the purity of the breed of pig that the product we buy comes from. 
To start off with, it is important to know that there is a regulation governing the pig sector in Spain (Royal Decree 4/2014), which was updated a few years ago and allows ham to be sold with the title "Iberian" even when the purity of the breed is only 50%. This occurs, for example, when stallions from the Duroc breed from North America are crossed with mothers that are of a pure Iberian breed. 
In other words, a large percentage of hams are sold everyday with the name Iberian, even though they're not 100% Iberian pigs. 
If we look even farther back in our history, in the Herd Book, there were reproductive mothers that were registered and certified as Iberian based on their phenotype (physical characteristics), a visual evaluation, and without taking into account their parents - thus questioning and endangering the purity of the Iberian breed. 
On the other hand, the Spanish Association of Iberian Pig Breeders (calle Aeceriber) manages the Herd Book for the purebred Iberian breed and this institution ensures that only animals with a known genealogy can be registered (with at least two ascending generations) for the production of products that are labeled as 100% Iberian. 

Nevertheless, an annex in the document allows for the incorporation of females as pure Iberian through a visual evaluation, despite not knowing who the parents are. 
Currently, according to the 2014 regulation, it is required that the labels on the pieces of ham include the product's percentage of Iberian breed, which can be 100%, 75% or 50%; Back in 2007, ham was classified in a dichotomous way as "pure Iberian" for those that were 100%, and "Iberian" for the remaining products that were the result of other crosses. 

Going even further, some experts believe that the most appropriate thing to do would be to only use the word Iberian to refer to ham that is 100% pure Iberian, which is actually a low percentage of all the products available on the market (approximately 10%).

Following the current regulation, the use of coloured seals was implemented to identify hams based on their breed, either 100% Iberian or crossed Iberian, and the animal's feeding system (acorn-fed, free range grain-fed, or grain-fed), according to the following colours:
  • Black: 100% acorn-fed Iberian ham; that is, father and mother are Iberian pigs registered in the Herd Book, and the animal, in the fattening stage, was fed mostly acorns.
  • Red: acorn-fed Iberian ham that comes from animals that are 75%-50% from the Iberian breed; that is, this product is the result of crossing pure Iberian pigs with the Duroc breed, and in its fattening stage it was fed mostly acorns with some other natural resources like grass.
  • Green: free range grain-fed Iberian ham, from 100%, 75% or 50% Iberian pigs; these pigs are raised in the fields and are fed a diet based on grains and legumes, in addition to grass.
  • White: grain-fed Iberian ham, from 100%, 75% or 50% Iberian pigs; these pigs are raised on farms with food consisting mainly of grains and legumes.

It is important to emphasise that, the higher the purity and the better the animal's diet, the greater the quality of the product and therefore its cost when it is sold. Therefore, knowing the true origin of the product you purchase and its level of purity will guarantee that you're buying the ham you want and that it meets your expectations. 


  1. Types of Iberico Ham
  2. How to Consume Iberico Ham
  3. How to Cut Iberico Ham | Carve Iberico Ham
  4. How to Preserve and Store Iberico Ham
  5. Pairing of Iberico Ham
  6. Quality Laws for Iberico Ham | The New Law 2014
  7. The Dehesa | The Meadow
  8. DOP Protected Source of Origin of Iberico Ham
  9. Nutritional Properties of Acorn-fed Iberico Ham
  10. Recipes with Spanish Ham
  11. Differences Between Iberico Ham and Serrano Ham
  12. Differences Between Shoulder and Iberico ham
  13. Differences Between Iberico Ham and Iberico Shoulder
  14. Iberico Ham and its Competitors Around the World
  15. Nutritional Properties of Iberico Ham
  16. Protected Denominations of Origin of Iberico Ham
  17. Production Areas of Spanish Ham and Iberico Ham
  18. Spanish Ham – Machine cut or Hand cut
  19. Museums of Iberico Ham Worldwide
  20. Inside Secrets of Iberico Ham Tasting
  21. Tourist Trails for Iberico Ham Aficionados
  22. Acorn-fed Iberico ham and the ideal pairing
  23. The Production Process of Iberico Sausages
  24. History of Iberico Sausages
  25. VAT and Spanish Ham: Frequently Asked Questions
  26. Spanish Ham in Great Spanish Literature
  27. Curiosities of Iberico ham
  28. How to Store Your Serrano Ham
  29. Regulations and the Quality of Serrano Ham
  30. Preparation of Serrano Ham
  31. Denomination of Origin of Serrano Ham
  32. Nutritional Properties of Serrano Ham
  33. Recipes With Serrano Ham
  34. Types of Serrano Ham
  35. Pairing of Serrano Ham
  36. How to Consume Serrano Ham
  37. How to Cut Serrano Ham | Carve Serrano Ham
  38. All the Secrets of Pata Negra Ham Tasting
  39. Choosing a Good Ham Holder
  40. Pata Negra Ham and Pasture
  41. The secrets of pairing pata negra ham
  42. What is the best para negra ham?
  43. Is the term pata negra correct?
  44. How can you know which ham to buy?
  45. Why is good ham so expensive?
  46. How to buy ham from online stores
  47. Myths and Truths, Benefits and Prejudices of Ham
  48. Is Iberian ham fattening?
  49. What to do with the ham bone?
  50. Why do we usually hang ham?
  51. Ham and Pregnancy: Can Iberian ham be included in pregnant women’s diets?
  52. The Role of Ham in a Child’s Growth and Develeopment
  53. Tips for Preserving Ham
  54. What is ham shaping and why is it done?
  55. New Technologies and Ham – MRI in Ham Tasting – Spectral Images
  56. The Iberian Pig Begins to Migrate
  57. Cured Sausages: Origin, Composition and Classification
  58. Production of Hams and Pork Shoulder Hams
  59. Iberian Ham Tasting Guide
  60. Quality: Differential Elements Between Ham and Iberico Cured Meats

Ham carving manual

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