Wiki Spanish Food editorial team
The new season has begun, and pigs in the Designation of Origin are in the midst of the montanera (the acorn-foraging period). Expectations are high for several reasons.
First, the ham supply is running out, especially high-quality ham shoulders. All of the bodegas have been being emptied out and they haven't been loaded up with hams due to the dwindling Ibérico pig herd.
Another important aspect is the increase in consumer confidence right before the Christmas campaign kicks off, when consumption of these types of unique products rises, although it's worth noting that consumption is increasingly stable all year round.
Additionally, acorn production is shaping up to be positive this year; even though it's not one of the best in recent years, it's more than acceptable, benefitting from the grass sprouting up in the fall following recent rains. The heat of summer is over and the dehesa (pastureland) is becoming covered with grass and acorns.
Every pig in the Designation of Origin Dehesa de Extremadura needed an average of four to six hectares in the last few years to ensure that it fattened up on acorns, herbs and grass. The DO's technical inspectors monitor close to 300,000 hectares of dehesa throughout Extremadura. If the montanera is not negatively impacted by the weather in the next two months, this could be a very good year in terms of quality and prices.
DO Dehesa companies are starting to see an increase in demand and are strengthening their markets in Spain. Madrid and Catalonia are the main destinations, followed by the Basque Country, Cantabria, Galicia and Rioja, where this leading product is well-known and highly valued. There are currently around 90 companies registered and over 50 are certified by the Regulatory Council and, therefore, have products on the market. Exports have increased in the last five years, although these types of products are very closely linked to culture and, as a result, Spain, where there is a ham carving tradition and the lion's share of production is consumed. The primary export markets in Europe are France, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy and Portugal, and Japan and Mexico are the main consumers outside of the EU.