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Portuguese protest against ‘American’ Iberian ham

Portuguese agricultural organisations launched a protest mid-August against what they call misuse of ‘Iberian ham’ labelling by American companies.

The organisations, Portugal’s National Confederations of Agriculture (CNA) and the Portuguese Farmers (CAP), also protested on behalf of Spain and the European Union.

Iberian ham, cut into thin slices, is a delicacy in Spain and Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock
Iberian ham, cut into thin slices, is a delicacy in Spain and Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

The issue came up when 2 American companies recently imported black pigs from the Iberian peninsula to manufacture, in Texas and Georgia, what they call “American Iberian ham”. The jamón ibérico (or presunto ibérico in Portuguese), however, is a name the Spanish and Portuguese would like to see reserved for ham from the black pigs from the Iberian peninsula only – pretty much like protected product names like champagne or parmesan cheese.

The Iberian pig – an indigenous breed

Speaking to Portugal’s news agency Lusa, CNA leader João Dinis said: “If this trafficking of a product of recognised quality – the Iberian pig, an indigenous breed, and its derivatives, particularly ham – is confirmed, it is another bad consequence of the system.”

He said that a situation like this must be prevented and Portuguese, Spanish and European authorities should immediately speak up to prevent yet another ‘smuggling’ that threatens national and Iberian production.

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Dinis added, “The accredited Iberian ham is not only related to the way in which the animals are kept and its genetic lines, but it is also related to its habitat and its growing conditions. It is very difficult to convince someone of how Iberian pigs are produced in the USA. This is highly unfair competition.”

Black pigs to Georgia and Texas

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the initiative to produce Iberian ham in the USA came from the North American companies Acornseekers, in Flatonia, TX, USA and Iberian Pastures, GA, USA. Both of them are owned by Spaniards or Hispanic Americans.

These 2 companies decided to start importing Iberian black pigs to the USA, with the aim of making their own ‘American Iberian ham’. Portugal’s pig sector representatives have also accused the Spanish government of not taking action, allowing the export of native black pigs to the United States.

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