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New Forest ham awarded protected status under post-Brexit rules

Pannage Ham

Air-dried ham made from pigs fed on acorns in the New Forest has been given special protected status by the Government under new post-Brexit produce rules.

New Forest pannage ham has been registered under the Government’s geographical indication (GI) scheme, which was brought in after Brexit to protect and verify the authenticity of food and drink from specific areas of the UK.

The scheme was introduced to mimic a similar system in the EU that ensures products can only carry a certain name if they are prepared in a certain way or originate from certain regions. The EU scheme covers everything from champagne sparkling wine to Roquefort cheese.

The practice of pannage – letting the pigs out to snack on acorns – can be traced back to the days of William the Conqueror in England, and used to take place all over the country.

As well as causing them to put on lots of weight, the process helps clear the ground of acorns which can be poisonous to cattle and horses.

New Forest - Andrew Matthews/PA

New Forest – Andrew Matthews/PA

However, the New Forest is now the sole remaining place where it happens, with some 600 pigs released for pannage each Autumn.

The pigs can roam for miles, eating acorns as they go, and ham made from these animals has a darker color and buttery, nutty flavor claimed to be comparable with fine Spanish hams.

David Richards, the owner of Capreolus Fine Foods, applied for a GI status after developing a technique for air-drying pork from local New Forest pannage pigs in hopes of creating a ham comparable to high-end Iberian pork.

Mr Richards said: “We’ve been feeding acorns to pigs for centuries. Unfortunately we’ve not really been making a great deal of use of it. There’s not much history of making charcuterie in this country… It’s not much of a conducive climate.”

However, technological advances over recent years have allowed producers to “control humidity in maturing rooms, which makes it all possible,” he said.

The GI status means New Forest pannage ham can be made by anyone in the area provided they follow the criteria. Mr Richards said he was encouraging farmers supplying him to get certified to produce the ham to help grow the market.

Other notable products to hold GI status include Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Welsh Leeks, Sussex Wine, Kentish Ale, and Gower Salt Marsh Lamb.

Food minister Mark Spencer said: “Our traditional foods help form the backdrop of British life, and with a 1,000-year heritage New Forest Pannage Ham is a part of our national food story.

“I look forward to sampling some New Forest Pannage Ham myself and celebrating this wonderful product with a unique history.”

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