There are as many types of Spanish ham as types of ham itself. And it’s because the country has thousands of years of making cured meat artisanally.

Of course, to catch up with the growing demand, lesser ham is now the most produced. However, the best of the best is still around, and it’s worth knowing better. Let’s talk about bellota ham — the authentic free-range ham.

Difference Between Grass Fed, Free Range and Commercially Produced

There are many types of animal products, and they all have unique traits. Most of them have to do with the way the cattle grow and how it feeds.

Grass-fed - Cattle and livestock that graze on grass and their diet is not supplemented with cereals or grains.

Free range - Cattle can access the outside and forage for their own food, although their diets can be supplemented with fodder.

Commercially produced - Cattle grown intensively in farms and confined places. These animals rarely feed on the grass out in the open.

Acorn-fed - An exclusive term for Spanish Iberico pigs that are allowed to feed on acorns in the country’s flatlands. Producers make Iberico de bellota ham with acorn-fed pigs that don’t receive supplementary cereals.

Which Ham is Better?

We can’t say commercial ham, such as the more common serrano ham, is a bad product because it isn’t. Still, it is not as complex or flavorful as authentic free-range ham, especially if acorn fed.

We are what we eat, and the same goes for pigs. The animals’ diet determines the amount of fat in their meat, and fat is a synonym for flavor. Of course, the time-consuming and labor-intensive process behind the finest hams, along with the expertise of ham producers, is also essential.

If you want to try the best of the best, try Iberico de bellota, or acorn-fed ham. For a second best, Iberico ham in all its varieties is a lovely alternative.

How to know if Ham is Acorn-fed?

The only way to know if the ham purchased was acorn fed is by trusting the producer and the ham’s label. That’s why sourcing ham from a reputable supplier is paramount, those working hand in hand with Spanish ham producers.

Here’s a tip: Spanish ham is color coded. White labels are for regular Iberico ham; green labels are for ham made with pigs fed with grains and cereals. Red tags are used for free-range pigs fed with acorns, and black labels are for pure-breed acorn-fed pigs. Red and black labeled hams are amongst the best on earth!

Treat Yourself to the Best Ham in the World

If you want to learn more about Iberico jamon, the famous Spanish Iberian ham, explore our blog and learn all about it. Once you’re ready to treat yourself and your loved ones to authentic Iberian ham, browse our curated selection of Spanish ham.


January 31, 2023 — franco salzillo