• 2020.10.14
  • New Record Price
In February of this year, a leg of Spanish jamón (dry-cured ham) was verified by the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive leg of ham in the world, at a price of 11,881.30 euros (1,429,000 yen). The producer is the Sierra Mayor Jabugo company from the village* of Corteconcepción, Huelva Province, Andalusia, in southwest Spain.
The Guinness World Records article.

The leg of ham (called “genboku” in Japan) with 2020 Guinness World Records commemorative label

Think of Sierra Mayor pig’s love for acorns.

Two years ago, in this correspondent's report, Spanish Dry-cured Ham, I wrote "The price of the world's most expensive ham as verified in the Guinness World Records 2016 edition is 4,100 euros for one leg, or about 530,000 yen." That record has now been overtaken by a large margin. By the way, the producer was the Dehesa Maladúa company from the village of Jabugo in Huelva Province, the same province as the Sierra Mayor Jabugo company.

The 2016 Guinness World Records most expensive leg of ham.

These hams are called “jamón de bellota 100% ibérico,” or “dry-cured hams from acorn-fed 100% pure-bred Iberian pigs”, and are among the finest, most exceptional, and highest quality of Spanish cured hams. Incidentally, while mislabeling of food production regions has been an issue in Japan, where, for example, imported foods have been sold as “Made in Japan,” the European Union has a solution to this very problem: an endorsement scheme that protects the product’s name and place of origin. Under this scheme, Spanish brand dry-cured hams have been given
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) and
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO),
which assure their place of origin.
The right hand side of Image 1 shows two regions with PGI-certification for dry-cured ham from white pigs and one region with PDO-certification for dry-cured ham from white pigs while the left hand side shows four regions with PDO-certification for dry-cured ham from Iberian pigs.

The map shows on the left that the Jabugo PDO region for Iberian pigs spreads across a very large area, but in this case, the region where the pigs are produced is not necessarily within the region where they are processed. By the way, the processing region under the Jabugo certification is limited to the northern part of Huelva Province, as in Figure 2. The two Guinness World Records most expensive legs of ham both have Jabugo PDO, and the pigs were produced and processed virtually in the same region. Jabugo village (black) and Corteconcepción village (red) are neighboring villages, only 30 km apart.

The designated Jabugo processing region

* Under the Spanish regime of autonomous communities, there is no distinction between cities, towns, and villages as there is in Japan: they are all called “municipios” (basic administrative subdivisions). Jabugo has a population of 2,250 and Corteconcepción has 548 people, so I have called them both "villages" for ease of comprehension.

Iberian pigs are becoming increasingly popular and come in six different varieties (strictly speaking, subspecies), each with its own characteristic features.
This year's Guinness-verified Sierra Mayor Jabugo leg of ham was made from Lampiño pigs. This variety is very rare, making up only 1.01% of all Iberian pigs. They have little hair, thus the name Lampiño, which means “hairless” or “having little hair.” They have black skin, a small build with short legs, large drooping ears, long snout, and characteristic horizontal wrinkles on the forehead, while another difference from other varieties is that they develop heavy marbling within the muscles.

Lampiño variety (Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [MAPA] website)

The Dehesa Maladúa dry-cured ham verified in 2016 by Guinness is from the Manchado de Jabugo variety. This variety makes up 0.07%, so it has every bit as much rarity value. You usually think of Iberian pigs as black pigs with characteristic black hooves (pata negra), but this variety is brown with irregular black spots, and its hooves are white, betraying your expectations superbly. The production region is limited to the Sierra de Aracena near the village of Jabugo.

This is the Manchado de Jabugo variety. (Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [MAPA] website)

Incidentally, the most common variety is Retinto, a multihued variety that makes up 87.2% of the total.
Next comes a black variety, Entrepelado at 10.47%,
then Torbiscal, a rare multihued variety, at 1.24%,
with an almost endangered variety, the multicolored Rubio Andaluz (Dorado Gaditano), at 0.01%,
so, with the two varieties I mentioned before, that makes a total of six varieties.

Other than the people directly involved with Iberian pigs, “Iberico geeks,” the enthusiasts who worry about these varieties, may almost be endangered species even in Spain. Incidentally, I am not part of the world of Iberian ham and the ham I eat every morning is what I’ve shown in Photo 6, an 80-g pack of thinly sliced ham for 2 euros, or, giving consideration to my blood pressure, a 50-g pack of 25% reduced salt ham for 1 euro. I toast some baguette, spread on some olive oil and tomato paste, and put the ham on for a quick and easy version of pan con tomate (bread with tomato).

Packs of the ham I usually eat.

If you are interested in acorn-fed Iberian pigs, please see the article posted on November 9, 2018 on the Knowledge World Network.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced the winners of the “2020 Spanish Leg Ham Competition” in the official gazette of August 6, 2020. This year is the third time for the competition, which is part of a PR campaign to raise the profile of Spanish food both in Spain and overseas.

Winner in the Jamón de Bellota 100% Ibérico Class
Juan Manuel Hernández 2016: A product with PDO made by the Juan Manuel Hernández company in the city of Guijuelo, Salamanca Province.
The wonderful images show the environment where the Iberian pigs are raised and the ham manufacturing process.

Winner in the Jamón Serrano Class
Serrano Reserva Escámez: A product with the EU’s Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) designation made by the Hermanos Escámez Sánchez company in the city of Bullas, Murcia Province. The company's website (http://www.embutidosescamez.com/) announces the award and shows the company’s wide range of processed pork products. By the way, this award-winning ham sells for 84.99 euros, or about 10,000 yen, for a leg (8 to 9kg).
The Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) designation means the EU guarantees the name "Jamon Serrano" rather than the origin or geographical labeling. In this context “traditional” means 30 years of more.

While I’m at it...
When you buy a whole leg, you’ll probably notice the differences in texture, feel (the delicious experience of picking it up with your fingers and eating it), as well as taste depending on which part of the leg the ham is from, even if it is the same leg.
(1) Maza: This is the fleshiest, fattiest, tenderest part on the inner side of the leg.
(2) Contramaza: The part next to the maza, which has a higher maturation index and is harder.
(3) Punta: This part on the other end from the hoof has a lot of fat and a stronger flavor.
(4) Babilla: Located on the other side from the maza, this part is at the front of the leg and is not as fleshy as the maza.
(5) Jarrete: This is where the shinbone and calf-bone are, so the meat is harder and is more suited to cutting into blocks or cubes (taco).
(6) Caña: The thinnest part near the hoof, best for cutting into cubes or dice, like the jarrete.
Because the remaining bone renders a distinctive soup stock, it is an essential ingredient for most Spanish stewed dishes. The skin is used in the same way as chicken fat (chiyu) in Chinese cooking, where the fat is extracted and turned into an oil for seasoning, or it is used to make a fried pork rind snack. As you would expect, the hoof is not suitable for eating.

The parts of a dry-cured leg of ham (using this year's Guinness verified leg of ham as the model)


  • Susumu Yamada
  • JobSpanish and Japanese Translation

It’s been almost 37 years since I received a residence permit and work permit from the Spanish government and paid my first tax and social insurance premiums. Now that I’m at that age where I will soon go and register at the senior human resources center, I’m grateful to have this opportunity to introduce you all to this country that has taken care of me these many years.

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