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Three distinct qualities of Ibérico

Posted March 14, 2008

In 2005 the Spanish government started regulating qualities of Iberico in 2005. They have defined three distinct qualities of Ibérico based upon the way they are fed: Cebo - the regular Ibérico that La Tienda is now carrying; Recebo; and Bellota. 

Iberico de cebo: comes from Ibérico pigs which are totally fed on grains.

The Ibericos de recebo are fed on grain until montanera season in the fall, when the pigs feast on acorns from holm and cork oaks in the Dehesa forest meadow. They also feed a great deal on grains to gain the appropriate weight (160-180 kg) before they are sacrificed. 

A pig may also be designated Recebo if, when the montanera season is over the pig still has not gained enough weight prior to the sacrifice. In this scenario the pigs have to have their diets supplemented on grains in addition to acorns. The pigs therefore, are fed grains twice: at the beginning of the season and at the end - hence the term "re"-cebo or double cebo. 

Put simply, the Recebo is as expensive to rear as Bellota, but the market price is lower. Hence it is not worth producing - either for the farmer nor for the ham producer. The farmer will make sure that the iberico pig which does montanera becomes "Iberico de Bellota", and not "Iberico de Recebo". Recebo is obtained "by accident", since the pig was suppose to be bellota, but it does not eat enough acorns.

Since it is not cost effective for farmers to rear these “double fed” pigs, and there soon will not be any more produced. Nevertheless there are still people who mistakenly refer to Ibérico de Cebo ham as Ibérico de Recebo. 

Ibérico de Bellota is the highest quality of Ibérico. During the montañera season (November through February) this free range Ibérico pig actively forages to eat acorns, herbs and grass only.