Which pigs do Teruel Ham come from?
When we talk about pigs in Spain, we usually divide them into just two types: Iberian pigs and White pigs. The former come from the Mediterranean Trunk of this animal, whilst the latter come from the Celtic or European Trunk. For people who are in-the-know, this is the simplest distinction. The first image that comes to mind is that the former is black and the latter pinky-white. However, within these two lines, there are many races of pigs with different characteristics, concerning both their morphology and the quality of the meat they produce. Today, we want to talk about the races of white pig that make up the cross authorised to make PDO Teruel Ham: Large White and Landrace, or a cross of both, from the maternal line and Duroc from the paternal line.
This race, originally from the North-East of England, the Country of Yorkshire to be exact, is an excellent mother. Its great fertility and high prolificity (number of piglets per birth), combined with good milk production and peaceful nature make it one of the races most used for reproduction in Spain.
White, with stiff ears and long legs, the Large White is a pig that adapts perfectly to animal husbandry. It grows fast with a high conversion rate, referring to transformation of food into meat, although it is not exactly the highest quality in the channel (channel quality is understood as the lean to fat ratio, not organoleptic quality).
All these characteristics were determining when selecting it as one of the authorised races as the maternal line for Teruel Ham.
Originally from Denmark, this medium-sized white pig, with not particularly large ears tilted forwards that almost cover their eyes, the Landrace is the second race authorised as a mother by the Teruel Ham Control Board.
Its conversion rate is good, without boasting the levels of the Large White or the Duroc race, and its fat level is also lower, considered to be a mainly lean race. However, its productivity, similar to the Large White, makes it a race that is widely used for reproduction, both males (although not in the case of Teruel) and females.
The only race authorised for the paternal line of pigs used to obtained Teruel Ham is the Duroc.
This race, originating from the USA, came from crossing the Red Jersey with the Old Duroc in the 19th century. As we already mentioned in a previous post, these two lines come from pigs with very different origins, such as the European Berkshire, the Colorado from Guinea and in all likelihood, from the ‘dark-skinned’ Iberian pig, that gives it a quality that makes it stand out from other ‘white-skinned’ pigs.
It is medium in size and length, its medium-length ears droop, with tips pointing downwards. Its long, hard, tile-red hair means that people often set it apart from other white pigs and call it red caped: a mixed breed with an ancestor from the Mediterranean Trunk.
Although it came to Spain in the sixties, it is only now that it is coming to the fore, mainly due to its great meat quality and its infiltrated fat that outshines its poor lean meat yield. The PDO Teruel chose this race as the father back in 1984 to attain a product with outstanding quality.
Local cereal and farms
The PDO Teruel Ham specifications guarantee that at least 50% of the feed for these pigs will be composed of cereal. This percentage is usually higher than 70%, completing their diet with legumes, that provide protein and with fats. What’s more, these cereals should originate from this same province of Teruel or surrounding provinces, guaranteeing not only rural development but also reducing the environmental impact caused by transport.
The farms where these pigs are raised are also in the same territory. These facilities have been gradually modernised and adapted to the standards in force on animal well-being.
In summary, we can say that, despite not being a race that originated from Teruel, the cross that began to be used over 30 years ago, in an attempt to give the product its own identity, is a real emblem of the province. This emblem creates many jobs and it is the ideal raw material to get a unique product such as Teruel Ham.