The 'boom' Of Mercadona's Most Exclusive Ham: It Can Only

The ‘boom’ of Mercadona’s most exclusive ham: it can only be found in these stores

The supermarket chain has introduced a new type of cured Serrano ham that is only available in very specific establishments in Castilla-La Mancha.

Mercadona's most sought-after ham: it is only sold in limited stores

Regular Mercadona buyers are waiting for the surprises that the brand offers. Some of them are exciting, others not so much, such as the disappearance of appreciated products that fill social networks with regrets, and that have as a counterpart the unexpected appearance of many other alternatives. It may even be the case that there are items for sale that are only found in certain stores in the country, a strategy used by the company to test the reactions of ‘the bosses’ (customers) to the novelty.

To reinforce its offer of cured meats and sausages, Mercadona exclusively introduces a new type of Serrano ham. Its about Marinated Ham (Red Vitola) produced by Incarlopsa, the main supplier of pork for the chain. This company based in Tarancón (Cuenca) dedicates 65% of its production to them and is behind some of Hacendado’s most popular products, such as “las sausages, the ham cubes or the slices” of cured ham.

This last product consists of a leg of Cured Serrano Ham Y Marinated, made from “a healing process in bodega between 11 and 14 months, guaranteeing that it complies with exhaustive quality controls. Coming from a fresh round-cut ham with leg and blood weight ranges between 8 and 12kg“, Explains the meat on its website. The mention of Tarancón, in any case, was not trivial: Mercadona clarifies that it can only be found as a local product, that is, in certain supermarkets in Castilla-La Mancha.

Serrano ham: healthy or not?

The nutritional characteristics of cured ham have been the subject of debate in recent years. On the positive side, its protein content stands out, something that the usual breakfasts in Spain tend to lack. According to the Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN), around 30% of the composition of this food is made up of this nutrient. That is, there is more protein in ham than in pork. This is because a large part of the water is lost in the curing process of the meat and the nutrients are concentrated.

On the other hand, the World Health Organization establishes since 2015 that processed meat -a term that also encompasses the maturation process of cured ham- should be considered carcinogenic, when relating it to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. However, the WHO has been the object of quite a few criticisms for putting “ultra-processed” foods -such as packaged sausages- and traditionally cured red meats in the same bag. While the former are directly related to multiple health problems, the increased risk of colon cancer with red meat per se it would be 1.7%.

Marinated Ham (Red Vitola) from Incarlopsa.

Marinated Ham (Red Vitola) from Incarlopsa.

Another problem is that of saturated fats, which should not be abused in the diet and which are abundant in sausages. However, cured ham does not fit into simplistic classifications either. As explained by Emilio Martínez de Victoria, professor at the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology of the University of Granada, contains a ratio less saturated fat than other meats and more muscle. This characteristic is enhanced if the pig has been fed on acorns and if it has been raised in freedom.

Finally, the high salt content that occurs naturally during the curing of meat is also not beneficial, especially for consumers suffering from high blood pressure. Trévelez ham, which is also sold by Mercadona, is a good alternative as it incorporates less salting. The ham that concerns us, however, introduces another way to season the meat, the paprika that covers it.

An increase in the consumption of this spice in our diet through various spicy foods provides, among other elements, lycopene, “a carotenoid without pro-vitamin A activity but with great antioxidant power“; Y capsaicin, “an active component that causes the pungent taste” and that helps to maintain cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and to stimulate circulation.

All added up, whoever is lucky enough to come across this elusive Mercadona ham can incorporate it according to the moderate consumption recommendations. The epidemiologist Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, in his book What are you eating? Science and conscience to resist, suggests a maximum of between 4 and 5 servings of ham of 50 grams each per week.

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