The Iberian pig used to create Ibérico Fresco is what some might consider to be a VIP: Very Important Pig. Bred in Andalusia, Spain, near the city of Córdoba, the pigs each have, on average, four acres in which to roam free, and they walk about eight miles per day, eating primarily acorns. Before heading for the slaughterhouse, they listen to classical music, get a hot shower, sleep, and relax. They’re never given hormones, and the result is pork that’s tender and fatty, but with fat that has a very low melting point and is similar to olive oil in terms of health properties. Until recently it was only available in Spain, but now it can be purchased, both raw and cured, in a few locations in the U.S., if you know where to look (its cured cousin, Jamón Ibérico, was legalized in the United States in 2007).
"We call it the other red meat," Jose Ignacio "Nacho" Martinez-Valero, one of the product’s only U.S. distributors, told The Daily Meal in an interview. "It smells and tastes completely different, and the fat is very healthy. There is a cooperative in Spain, and all the producers come together to bring the pigs to their own USDA-approved slaughterhouse."
At this point, only about 9 percent of the Ibérico produced in Spain is purebred (the rest is crossbred with a Duroc pig, but there is a law in the works to only allow 100 percent Ibérico pigs to be labeled as such). And of that, a very small percentage is exported to the United States. As of this moment, only a handful of restaurants are selling dishes that include the pork (it sells wholesale at about $22 per pound, which makes it very expensive for restaurants), and there are just a handful of butcher shops that sell the fresh pork, called Ibérico Fresco, including Nijiya Market in San Francisco and Japan Premium Beef in New York. The cured version, similar to serrano ham, called Covap, is also beginning to appear on the high-end scene.
It might take a little bit of hunting, but if you can track down this extraordinary breed of pig, we would strongly recommend bringing some home for dinner. Here’s a great recipe you can use.
Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.