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A ground-breaking approach
pioneered by Fumagalli

29 January 2015

Parma ham

The rules governing the production and processing of what is arguably the best ham in Italy.

Parma ham, a world-famous Italian speciality, was first documented in ancient Roman times, when Cato described the process of preparing it in his work De Agricultura. What are the secrets of Parma ham and the rules governing the process that makes it unique?

Parma ham is DOP-certified, a guarantee of its provenance and the method of production. It conforms to EU regulation 1151/2012 governing the quality of agricultural and food products.

The ham is a rounded shape and it weighs 8-10kg. When sliced, it displays a uniform colour between pink and red with white fat. It has a sweet, delicate flavour with specific qualities due to the ageing process that it undergoes.

The first criterion for Parma ham is geographical. It must be produced in the Parma region between Enza and Stirone. The production process is as follows, with every stage subject to strict rules:

  1. Only Italian pigs of guaranteed provenance, race, diet, age and weight can enter the production chain.
  2. Cooling and trimming. Preserving treatments must not be applied to the hams, and they must not be frozen, although they may be refrigerated to facilitate the process of trimming them into the characteristic round shape.
  3. Salting. Only salt is used for preservation. Chemical substances, preservatives, additives and smoking are not permitted.
  4. Resting. The hams rest for two to three months in temperature-controlled cells to allow the meat to absorb the salt.
  5. Washing and drying. The hams are washed in tepid water and brushed to remove accumulations on the surface resulting from the dehydrating process. They are then dried in special rooms.
  6. Pre-ageing. During the preparatory stage that precedes the ageing process, the hams are kept in rooms where the temperature and humidity are regulated by means of a system of windows that are opened or closed as appropriate.
  7. Coating. The hams are spread with a mixture of pork fat, salt, ground pepper and sometimes rice meal, a process called
  8. Ageing. The hams are aged for seven months and then transported in cold chambers in which the humidity and temperature are controlled either by systems of windows or electrically. After a further five months, IPQ, the authorised control body, assesses the hams before assigning the DOP certification.

Once the certification is given, the hams are branded with the ducal crown and the name “Parma”. Traceability is ensured by means of a complex system that records all stages of the production chain, comprising the brand applied by the farmer to both legs of the animal to identify the farm and the pig’s date of birth, the stamp that identifies the slaughter house, and the date that the ageing of the ham began, which is indicated on a metallic seal.

Only after certification can Parma ham be sold, whole or sliced, for packaging.

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