Producers protect Jambon sec des Ardennes

The future of the PGI (protected geographical indication) for Jambon sec des Ardennes is taking form. An investor from Luxemburg has confirmed plans for creating a large-scale production facility in Vivier-au-Court, France.

The recent history of Ardennes dry cured ham, officially known as Jambon sec des Ardennes, has been riddled with difficulties. The renewed efforts to establish a PGI are sure to please connoisseurs of this product. Initial steps to create a regional brand to protect this dry cured ham were first taken in 1987, under the name Ardennes de France.

The first request for the creation of a PGI was made in June of 1999, despite the fact that there were only two producers that manufactured this product under the Ardennes de France regional brand in the 1990s. One of these manufacturers retired in 2000, leaving Maurice Roffidal as the sole producer. In November 2001, the Ardennes de France association obtained the PGI for jambon sec and noix de jambon sec des Ardennes (Ardennes ham and extra lean ham) and began looking for new producers but, unfortunately, was not successful. In 2003, when regional brands were abolished, the production of meat products carrying this label ended.

Restoring value to the product

At the end of 2008, the matter gained renewed attention when the managers of a Luxemburg-based company, took an interest in the dry cured ham produced in the French Ardennes. They realized that without swift action, the designation was at risk of disappearing. The compaby along with all of the regional operators in the sector, decided to reinitiate the PGI application procedure. Since the specifications from 1999 were no longer applicable, the producers in Ardennes, in collaboration with the Luxembourger compaby, decided to reformulate them, establishing new quality standards with the assistance of Maurice Roffidal, the “historic” Ardennes ham producer.

After three years of talks and discussions, the INAO (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité) – the French national institute of origin and quality, formerly the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (National institute of designations of origin), the Ardennes de France brand and the producers obtained approval for the new specifications in January 2012.

The control plan was approved soon afterwards, in July 2012. “The procedure is rather lengthy” explained Didier Villemin, head of Aux Saveurs d’Ardennes, who worked in close collaboration with Frédéric Loriette, head of Haybes Salaisons. “We needed to redefine everything: the pigs used, the production region, the salting method, the drying time, the selection of a monitoring body, etc. All of these points required significant work and numerous revisions to attain the final approval, but PGI status is essential for protecting the designation and guaranteeing the quality of the product”.commercial cliff hanger slide

The partners hope to obtain PGI status by the end of 2014. In September, this year, the documents will be submitted to the European Commission, which should register the specifications by December of the following year. Producers are expecting that this designation will increase sales. Currently, the two producers in the region produce less than 2,000 hams per year each.

“This is a ridiculous quantity” Didier Villemin stated, adding that his company alone has the capacity to produce 35,000 hams per year. “We are expecting that the jambon sec and noix de jambon PGI labels will help to increase sales”.

From an article by Mirko Spasic for L’union-L’Ardennais, published 15/08/2013