High-commercial-value products are often susceptible to food fraud.
Among them, Iberian dry-cured ham is highly appreciated due to its
particular and sensory, but also nutritional, properties. There are four
different Iberian ham categories (namely bellota, recebo, cebo de campo
and cebo), which depend on the rearing system of the pig during the last
stage of the fattening phase. However, there is still a lack of a
normalized and robust method capable of authenticating the different
product categories and, therefore, preventing mislabeling. In this work,
we characterized the polymorphism of eighty raw lipid extracts belonging
to the four categories of Iberian pig by using DSC and synchrotron
radiation XRD techniques. The results showed that bellota and recebo
samples exhibited essentially the same crystallization and polymorphic
behavior and this was significantly distinguishable from that of cebo de
campo and cebo categories. Crystallization and melting temperatures of
bellota and recebo samples were significantly lower than those of cebo
de campo and cebo, due to its more unsaturated fatty acids composition.
Furthermore, lower amount of polymorphic forms was detected in bellota
and recebo. By considering the differences in rearing systems of the
pigs, we concluded that the key factor which determined the polymorphic
behavior of Iberian pig lipid extracts was not the physical exercise
practiced by the pig, but the inclusion of acorns in the feeding system.
This work demonstrated that crystallographic techniques, like DSC and
XRD, may be promoted to be used as fingerprinting tools for the
authentication of high-value food products.