Differences between white ham and Iberian ham

When we want to buy a ham, there are some aspects that we have to take into account; the first and most basic one is to know how to know the difference between a white ham and an Iberian ham. Do you know what their differences are? Today we will tell discover the main ones.

We will start from the premise that 93% of the ham produced in our country is white ham compared to 7% which is Iberian ham. It is clear that in terms of volume, the white ham is the king.


What is a white ham?

It is a ham that comes from what is called a white coat pig (not Iberian), which is usually reared on farms and fed on cereal feed.


The most commonly used breeds for these hams are: Duroc, Landrace, Large White and Pietrain. The hams can come from pigs that are 100% of one of these breeds or from pigs that are crosses of two breeds. Nowadays, for example, it is common to find 100% Duroc Hams. The Duroc breed is the one that has been used since 2001 for crosses with the Iberian pig.

I am sure you have also heard terms like “jamón serrano“, “jamón DOP Teruel” (Protected Denomination of Origin), “jamón curado“, “jamón IGP Trevélez or Serón” (Protected Geographical Indication), etc. These are some of the varieties that we can find inside the white ham.

White hams may also include the following mentions provided that they comply with the minimum production period established:

–    Bodega or Cava Ham: 9 months of curing.

–    Reserva or Añejo Ham: 12 months of curing.

–    Gran Reserva Ham: 15 months of curing.

These are the hams that we are used to seeing and that we consume most often. Their cures go from 7 to 16 months.

What is an Iberian ham?

We have said that in the case of white hams, they come from a white-coated pig; in the case of Iberian hams, they come from 100% Iberian pigs or from pigs crossed between Iberian and Duroc pigs (75% or 50% Iberian). Within the Iberian pig we can find varieties such as the “retinto“, “rubio andaluz“, “lampiño“, “entrepelado“, “manchado de Jabugo” or “torbiscal“.

The breed is one of the main differences but, in addition, their type of diet and how they are raised will also determine the type of each ham. In the Iberian ham, the feeding can be:

Bellota(Acorn): it comes from an Iberian pig raised in freedom in the dehesas and that in its last months of fattening has been fed on acorns and natural pastures.

Cebo de Campo“: it comes from an Iberian pig raised in open air farms, which has been fed on natural pastures and feed.

Cebo“: it comes from an Iberian pig that has been raised on farms and whose food is based on cereal and legumefeed.

Its elaboration process requires from 20 to 36 months depending on the type of ham and weight.

In the Iberian ham we find 9 different kinds of hams if we take into account the Iberian regulation. We have 4 coloured plastic seals on the Iberian ham that can help us to differentiate them.

The pieces of Iberian ham are usually more slender and narrower than those of white ham. It is one of the characteristics of the morphology of the Iberian pig. They also tend to contain a higher proportion of fat, both infiltrated in the lean meat and spread on the outside, when compared to a white ham. This aspect will make us have a lower performance of the piece (we will have a less amount of ham) but will provide very different flavors and aromas.

White ham and Iberian ham are different products and this is how they should be understood. You need to know what each of them can bring you and how and when to enjoy them.