Certification is a lengthy process, which begins with monitoring the pigs in the dehesas (woodlands) and includes an audit of the entire animal at the slaughterhouse, in the drying room and in the cellars until the final label is applied. Each step (every single pig, every single ham) is verified by technical inspectors from the Regulatory Council, ensuring a strict control system with guaranteed traceability.
The slaughterhouse and drying room/cellar must be in the Extremadura region which, despite its size, allows for more rigorous oversight.
1.- Pasture control
The stockbreeder requests a visit by the inspectors who, after ensuring that the breeder's paperwork and registrations are in order, verify the pigs' breed, age and weight and the maximum number of animals allowed to be fattened at the farm during the montanera period. Each pig deemed to be acceptable is fitted with an electronic ear tag.
From that point onwards, the inspectors visit the farm as many times as they consider appropriate, rejecting those pigs that do not comply with regulatory demands and verifying those that complete the fattening phase correctly.
2.- Production control
Once the pigs' provenance and tag number are checked at the slaughterhouse, the inspectors verify the placement of a numbered seal on each ham and shoulder. Subsequent audits are performed to ensure artisan production during every phase: trimming, salting, settling, drying, maturing and ageing in the cellar.
Since the pigs have fed on acorns, grass and pasture, resulting in a low salt content, DO Dehesa de Extremadura hams have long maturation periods of up to 28 months plus four years for curing. Only the Regulatory Council inspector can verify the application of a numbered seal in the slaughterhouse and the numbered back label at the end of the process, providing a special guarantee for the consumer.
3.- Final product control
After the cut has matured, a request is submitted to the Council to complete the labeling process. The inspectors visit the cellar, where they check the seal, age and maturation of each cut, and then insert a small sharp instrument into each ham and shoulder to check aromas. Numbered back labels are then applied only to those cuts which comply with the quality demands of the DO Dehesa de Extremadura.
1. By breed
The livestock authorized for processing hams and shoulders under the DO Dehesa de Extremadura must be purebred Ibérico or a cross including at least 75% Ibérico bloodstock and 25% Duroc-Jersey.
2. By feed
a) Acorn-fed or fattened during the montanera period: 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%. Acorn-fed hams and shoulders have a seal and a red label.
These account for 98% of Dehesa de Extremadura production and are prestigious and renowned products, considered by some to be the best food in the world and a symbol of Extremaduran and Spanish culture.
b) Recebo: Pigs which increase their weight by at least 30% feeding on acorns and grass, supplemented by natural animal feed authorized by the Regulatory Board. These are free-range pigs. Recebo hams and shoulders have a seal and a green label.
c) Campo: Pigs which eat compound feed authorized by the Regulatory Board, mainly cereals, legumes and pasture. These are free-range pigs. Recebo hams and shoulders have a seal and a cream-colored label. This ham is especially interesting because, despite eating feed, the pigs also graze in the woodlands and are constantly exercising; these factors, along with a prolonged salting period due to its low salt content and the quality provided by the grass and pastures, yield a very appealing product in terms value for money.
Commitment to consumers and promotion. Markets
PDO Extremadura has two main commitments to consumers:
- To guarantee the certified cut so that the consumer who purchases a DO ham is ensured a quality product. Monitoring the pastures and the slaughterhouse and applying individual, personalized labels ensures that only the very best PDO products are sent to market.
- To raise awareness about its products in Spain and around the world by attending all of the fairs, fora, tastings, conferences, and events deemed valuable for promotional purposes.
Our hams and shoulders are consumed mainly at national level, since they are products with limited production and are closely linked to Spanish culture. We continue to expand within Spain and demand is also growing in Europe and around the world, in France, Italy, Germany, the UK, Japan, China and in many other countries, where consumption of our products is on the rise.
By purchasing a DO Dehesa de Extremadura ham, consumers are doing more than just eating a healthy product; they are also helping preserve a unique ecosystem: the dehesa.