The Producers’ Association of the Dehesa de Extremadura Designation of Origin exercises stringent control over the entire production process.
The Producers’ Association is responsible for identifying and branding pigs in their grazing areas, and overseeing their diet during the finishing period. It then monitors slaughter of the animals, and hind leg and shoulder hams are given an indelible, numbered tag, for supervision of the entire maturation process.
Other controls performed verify the saline concentration of brine, and ensure observation of minimum periods for drying, and aging in cellars.
Upon completion of this process, which takes at least 20 months for hind leg and 12 months for shoulder cuts, it is the Producers’ Association which grades and labels these hams before they are shipped to consumers. Labelling (see picture at left) classifies hams into three categories, based on their quality:
Bellota grade: The pig enters the finishing period weighing 80-105 Kilos, and replaces about 60% of its entry weight on a diet of acorns and grasses.
Recebo grade: The animal replaces about 30% of its entry weight on a diet of acorns and grasses, the remainder of its diet being natural feed authorized by the Producers’ Association.
Campo grade: The animal has a varied diet, including feeds authorized by the Producers’ Association and herbage from the dehesa pastureland.
Labels may also refer to genetic characteristics of the animal, distinguishing between purebred Iberian Pigs and cross breeds (which are at least 75% Iberian bloodstock).
All of the farms and industries involved in the process of ham production are registered with the Producers’ Association.