We often wonder why a “bellota” iberico ham is much more expensive than a “serrano” ham. In this article we will explain as simply as possible the large differences in costs in producing a pure Iberico bellota ham and produce a “serrano” ham. We will always be based on seven parameters values comparing pure Iberian pigs fed on acorns with a white pig breeds Landrace or Large White, which are normally used to make the “serrano” ham or Italian prosciutto.
– Prolificacy: A pure Iberian mother sired by a pure Iberian produces an annual average of 15 piglets while a mother Landrace, Large White and their crosses produce 25-30 piglets per year. The cost of producing an Iberian piglet is much higher than one of white lineage due to have to spread the fixed costs of operating in less animals produced.
-Meat output or percentage of meat of the animal: Because of breed, a pure Iberian pig accumulates lots of subcutaneous and intermuscular fat so the percentage of meat (50%) is much lower than that of a white pig (75%). That is, the half of a carcass of Iberian acorn pork is lard and bacon.
– Life: A 100% Iberian pig fed on acorns is sacrificed about 160 kilos and lives in about 24 months as a white pig lives about 8 months and sacrificed with about 90-110 kilos. An Iberian pig lives in freedom and may walk and run. Due to that takes longer to replenish weight; this means more time feeding on fodder (approximately 20 months compared to 8 of the white pig) and hence higher cost of production.
– Habitat: Each Iberian acorn-fed pork needs during the “montanera” (final period of his life between October and March when fed exclusively on acorns, grasses, fungi, etc …) about two hectares (approximately two and a half football fields for each animal) of “dehesa”. If we buy a “dehesa”, the price of a hectare would be 6000-7000 euros depending on the density and age of the holm oaks. If we choose to rent a “dehesa” for fattening Iberian pigs during the “montanera” it would has a cost of 100-150 euros per animal. A white pig just need 2 square meters for their entire life in an industrial unit.
– Maturing time of the ham: An Iberian ham of about 7.5 kilos takes 36-42 months to heal due to their intrinsic degree of fat infiltration while an equal weight of ham is cured in about 8-12 months. This means less rotation of the hams in the cellar and space requirements.
– Production wastes: Due to the degree of hydration of meat from acorn-fed iberian pork, due to intramuscular and intermuscular fat, an Iberian ham from start healing until sold 37% decline. A ham weighing about 11 to 12 kilos fresh when sold and weighs approximately 7.5 kg. The decline of a ham is approximately 33%.
– Funding: The production of Iberian ham requires funding of at least 5 years, two years of life of the animal and three years of healing the ham. The producer invests resources during that period to begin to recover the investment from its sale. This means having to seek bank loans to market interest during that period. In the production of a ham this funding period is shortened to less than 2 years.