Spain’s ham sniffers prepare for a hectic season, sniffing 800 hams daily

One sniffer typically smells around 200 hams a day, but this number increases to at least 800 during the holiday season.

Spain’s ham sniffers prepare for a hectic season, sniffing 800 hams daily
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Ever caught yourself in a butcher shop staring longingly at an aged ham that’s hanging on the wall? Well, there’s a lot that goes into making the detectable processed pork with an undeniably rich taste. Sniffing is a huge part of that process, and there are people specialized in doing just that.

‘At The Limit Of Human Possibility’

A report in the Wall Street Journal highlights the work done by a 142-year-old company in Spain, Cinco Jotas which uses traditional production methods to turn pork into a delicious aged ham.

As part of the company’s quality-control methods, a small group of people are specially trained to smell the product before it goes to the market. The job description of the team of six professional sniffers (caladores in Spanish), includes poking the meat, taking a sniff to determine if it is up to muster.

The goal is to seek out specific scents that show that the ham meets the quality standards of the company.

Typically, a calador works by himself, smelling approximately 200 hams a day all year-round. However, during the holiday season, he’s joined by five other expert sniffers who work seasonally, each sniffing around 800 hams a day.

With each ham getting four sniffs, that makes a total of 3,200 sniffs daily, all to ensure you get the best quality ham for your festivities.

A Well-Trained Nose

A good calador is able to detect small amounts of different substances in water.

Manuel Vega Domínguez has been in the quality control business since 1998 and he and his colleagues maintain a strictregimen of scents in their daily lives to keep their sense of smell honed and ready.

He told WSJ that all this inhaling is putting him 'at the limit of human possibility.

Domínguez is dedicated and passionate about his job that the workload does not dissuade him; he is willing and ready to sniff in a couple more hams in a day.

He told WSJ:

I will find a way to sniff 801. Perhaps 802 is possible.
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