Once again, the montanera (fattening) period has begun. In the Extremaduran dehesas (pasturelands), fall has started and the yellowish blanket that covers the ground is turning green. Acorn production looks good this year, as rains and the drop in temperature are expected to help the dehesa's natural grass and pasture grow along with the acorns. Dehesa de Extremadura pigs, which are free-range and are raised and fattened up naturally, will each need an average of 4 hectares; they are currently being tagged.
As the supply of high-quality cured products is starting to run low, given that they are unique and limited and their availability depends on nature, and the quality standard is being applied, which we expect will ensure that inferior quality hams and shoulders are not advertised as top-flight items, it’s clear that this type of product is more expensive and results in a rise in consumption and exports, since exquisite products that are hard to come by are in high demand and should be appreciated.
This Designation of Origin's Regulatory Council has had a steadfast policy since its creation more than 25 years ago: quality and quality.
Extremadura has a unique ecosystem, the dehesa, where man co-exists with wild and domestic species such as the Ibérico pig, as well as a technical team of dedicated experts, which enable it to bring DO Dehesa de Extremadura hams and shoulders to market each year which meet the needs of all consumers—from the most discerning to the least experienced.
This is achieved with strict quality control by the technical inspectors, which begins with individually identifying and weighing each Ibérico pig and monitoring how much they eat on the dehesas. Once each pig has been weighed and identified, their feeding is rigorously overseen and verified during periodic visits, during which time it is confirmed that the pigs monitored by the DO Dehesa de Extremadura are grazing freely and exclusively eating acorns and herbage during the montanera period, which generally runs from October to March (depending on annual acorn production) and is when pigs increase their weight from around 105 to 170 kilos.
Audits allow for traceability, which cover 100% of production in the case of the DO Dehesa de Extremadura. Our auditors check every piece to ensure that the correct seals have been placed on the hams at the slaughterhouse. The ham is then prepared using artisan methods, which are also subject to audits to ensure correct production and curing in drying rooms and bodegas.
The maturation period can vary from 22 months in the case of acorn-fed Ibérico shoulder to 30 to 40 months for acorn-fed Ibérico ham, after which time an audit is conducted to evaluate the final product. The auditors confirm that each ham and shoulder has been prepared correctly, and the Council's numbered back label is applied to the product.
During any of the control phases—when the pig is in the dehesa through to production audits—pigs may be disqualified or certification may be withdrawn from producers or product batches. As a result, only those pieces with the identifying back label from the slaughterhouse and the label applied at the end of the production process are certified with the DO Dehesa de Extremadura label.
Our DO certifies the quality of two products:
a) 100% or 75% acorn-fed Ibérico ham: Ham from pigs which are slaughtered immediately after the end of the montanera period, having eaten acorns and herbage in the holm oak and cork oak woodlands. During this phase, the pig increases its weight by 60%. This type accounts for more than 95% of DO Dehesa de Extremadura's total production.
b) 100% or 75% cebo Ibérico ham: Ham from pigs which eat compound feed, mainly cereals, legumes and pasture. These are free-range pigs.