Over the years, this term has taken on a life of its own. But what does pata negra really mean?
Origins of the word
"Pata Negra" literally means "black foot", referring to the color of the Iberian pig's trotter.The Iberian breed of pig, unlike the Duroc or Large White breeds which are white in color, are
almost always (though not in every case) black or brown.
Quality or no?
Apart from its color, the Iberian breed is also distinguished from other breeds for its excellent flavor
and the extraordinary quality of its marbled meat.
The use of the term "Pata Negra" claims to indicate a high quality product, as it is the colloquial term
for the Iberian pig. But... there's a catch!
The use of this term was not well regulated, so anybody could use it to market their products, both
those who manufactured the highest quality hams, and those whose standards were lower. This is
how problems and confusion started to arise for consumers.
Consumer protection lawsThe confusion and the misuse of the term "Pata Negra" reached such a point that there were even
farmers who painted the trotters of their hams black to take advantage of the fame that had been
built up around the name. For this reason, the use of this term was eventually prohibited by law in
It took until the year 2014, for a new law to be passed (Royal Decree 4/2014) which strictly defined
what names can be used for labeling products.
According to law, the only products that can be marketed in Spain with the label "Pata Negra" are
hams or shoulders that come from 100% Iberian breed pigs, raised in total liberty and fed on
acorns (fruits of the oak tree) until they reach a minimum weight.
Little by little, hams that were slaughtered under the new law are coming to the market . Starting in
2017-2018, nearly all of these hams will have reached their optimal state of curing and will be released on the market with their label just as stipulated by the law.
Until then, you need to paycareful attention above all to the breed and the diet of the animal to know if you are buying a quality product.