One of the widest-spread fallacies in the world of ham is that ham from sows is better quality that ham from boars. This legend probably springs from confusing the terms jamón de hembra with jamón de cerda as they both imply ham made from a female pig.

Although it is true that both terms allude to the gender of the animal they come from, they are actually two very different concepts. Jamón de cerda comes from reproductive females who are sacrificed after being used for this purpose. They are very large animals, producing hams over 15 kg, once cured. Traditionally, they have always been good quality hams, with meat that is more “done” and fatty, as they come from adult mothers who were given ideal feed and care.

Jamón de hembra is no different from jamón de macho (ham from a boar), as long as the male was castrated to fatten it up like a female and avoid the bad taste and unpleasant odour brought about by the presence of skatole. Males start to produce this substance, also found in faeces, along with androstenone in pig fat, after sexual maturity and causes the aforementioned unpleasant taste.  Uncastrated males are used for reproduction. Boars used for hams have always been castrated.

Commercial use of the name “Jamón de hembra” is nothing more than a claim, a marketing strategy to confuse and attract consumers who have heard about jamón de cerda and associate it with better quality.

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