Benefits of consuming meat from free range porks, as an alternative to factory raised ones, have been discussed far and wide; many times without clear conclusions. Uncertainties however, are basically around the way this method is put into practice, not about the method itself.
No one disagrees that the absence of hormones, antibiotics, GMO feed and other drugs in their meats, is a clear advantage towards consumer health. However, some will argue that this happens at the cost of risking pork illnesses such as salmonella, toxoplasma or trichinosis. In our opinion this argument shouldn’t be given much weight, as when handled with proper care, according to the sanitary legislation in place, this is just not the case. There are no studies proving that eating free-range pork increases your chances of getting any of these illnesses, and with the standard meat treatment procedures applied in Spain we believe this risk is totally marginal.
This is why, just as we do with our hams, at Juan Pedro Domecq we take careful care of all the different phases in our pork’s lives. We achieve that by combining state of the art facilities for reproduction and monitoring, with a life of freedom within the Dehesa.
At Juan Pedro Domecq, all our pigs are born in our farm, in Seville, and are coveted and cared for in the farm premises during their first 3 months of life. Once they are strong enough to fend for themselves, they are set to roam freely in a vast extension of land, thousands of acres of Dehesa (Mediterranean acorn woods), until they are approximately 18 months old. This entails that throughout their lives, our pigs eat natural products, directly from the fields and acorn woods, not only in their last two months of life, which is what the Spanish regulations require in order for the pigs to be considered as Acorn fed Iberian Pigs («Cerdo Iberico de Bellota»). Our «Montanera» (Acorn feeding season) extends for double that amount of time, as it goes from October to January, nearly four months! On top of this, as our pigs are set free when they are very young, they also benefit from the last acorns of the previous acorn feeding season. This makes the quality of our pigs unique, as it is the acorns that give their meat its rich flavor and the high quantities of oleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids, which nutritionists defend so!
Research being conducted in Australia and New Zealand is showing that when stress is minimized in animals, the meat has a lower pH and is consistently more delicate than in animals that experience stress during their life (as is the case in factory-farmed animals). In other words, when it comes to making a high-quality, unique product such as Iberico ham, making the pig’s life conditions nicer, goes a long way.
But what is the true disadvantage of this method of raising pigs? It is costly. However, as we have argued it has clear benefits not only for the keep sake of our pigs, but for the final consumer. Healthier meat for once, and the taste… A life of free roaming and natural feeding really does make a difference, try it and you will know what we are talking about.
Offering great quality is a costly business, but well worth it and that is what Juan Pedro Domecq hams is aiming at.