Why Is Prosciutto So Expensive? (7 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Prosciutto is a popular Italian ham that features a salty and sweet flavor. Since prosciutto is so tasty, people use it in a variety of recipes, such as pizza.

If you want to try prosciutto and see how much it costs, you may be curious as to why prosciutto is so expensive. I did some digging, and here is what I discovered!

Why Is Prosciutto So Expensive?

Prosciutto is expensive primarily because it takes a long time to create it. Normally, the total curing time for prosciutto is at least two years because prosciutto needs to lose 35-40% moisture through air drying. Moreover, importing costs, the quality of the meat, and more can affect the price of the prosciutto.

Do you want to learn more interesting facts about prosciutto and what makes prosciutto expensive? I made a list of various reasons, so read on!

1. Prosciutto Has A Long Curing Time

Firstly, the main reason prosciutto is expensive is that it takes a long time to make it. Notably, prosciutto has a very long curing time before retailers can sell it.

Typically, the whole curing process of prosciutto can take up to two years.

That said, this is because the prosciutto needs to lose around 35-40% moisture, and the prosciutto only loses moisture through sea salt and the air.

Normally, the curing process begins by coating the prosciutto heavily in sea salt; this salted prosciutto is often left to cure for a week in a refrigerated area.

Next, the original layer of salt is removed after the week of curing is over, and a lighter layer of salt is added, then the prosciutto is left to cure for two more weeks.

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As the prosciutto cures, people massage it to remove any excess blood. Once the two weeks are up, the prosciutto is washed several times to remove the salt.

Afterward, the prosciutto is hung in a dry, dark room to dry at room temperature for at least six months, but this can vary based on the size.

When six months pass, rendered pork fat gets spread over the prosciutto’s exposed meat, particularly the parts that do not already have fat.

Finally, the prosciutto gets hung up again to mature and age for another year before people can eat it.

Further, sellers of ham like prosciutto cannot skip the curing process. Instead, prosciutto needs the curing process to achieve the signature flavor and smell that prosciutto is known for.

2. Lots Of Labor Is Required

As mentioned earlier, prosciutto requires some labor throughout the curing process.

For example, employees regularly need to check on the prosciutto as it ages, so they have to tend to the same prosciutto for a few years.

For instance, the employees will be in charge of salting, massaging, rinsing, and hanging the prosciutto until the prosciutto is ready.

As you can imagine, this takes a lot of effort, which is why prosciutto is expensive.

3. Additives

Generally, traditional prosciutto’s only ingredient other than meat is sea salt. However, other ingredients may be added to enhance prosciutto’s taste.

For example, nitrites are a common additive added to certain meats, including some brands of prosciutto. Normally, you can expect your prosciutto to be more expensive if there are additives.

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4. The Quality Of Meat Used

Typically, things that are made of higher-quality materials will be more expensive. As such, you can expect that prosciutto made from high-quality meat will be expensive.

Usually, the meat’s price can depend on the quality of the pig. For instance, the pig’s age, nutrition, and origins can impact how much the final product will cost.

Moreover, more expensive brands tend to opt for certain breeds of pigs that come from specific regions.

With these types of pigs, you can expect that the pig’s health and safety were carefully monitored.

5. Importing And Exporting Fees

5. Importing And Exporting Fees

Generally, the world’s prosciutto comes from Italy since prosciutto is an Italian ham.

Therefore, there will be a lot of importing and exporting fees that sellers and distributors will have to face when they want to sell prosciutto.

Typically, importing and exporting fees can be made up by making the product more expensive. Thus, you can expect your prosciutto to be more expensive the further away you are from Italy.

Moreover, you can expect fuel prices to impact how much your prosciutto will cost.

With that, fuel is necessary to create and transport many food items, including prosciutto, so fuel prices will often be calculated into your food.

6. Tradition

Curing meat has been a popular way to prepare meat for hundreds of years. As such, traditional recipes like prosciutto have developed into old family recipes passed on to each generation.

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Usually, you can find old businesses or family-owned stores that sell traditional prosciutto.

That said, these types of prosciutto tend to be more expensive because these sellers focus on making the best prosciutto possible to preserve the prosciutto’s authentic flavors.

7. Quality Control

While this is not always necessary, some prosciutto brands offer safety and authenticity certificates.

Further, these certificates ensure that the prosciutto has reached the highest standards possible. However, getting one of these certificates is not easy.

Generally, the people making the prosciutto will have to adhere to specific guidelines and standards and pay a hefty fee to obtain the certification.

Therefore, since certificates are hard to get and expensive, you can expect that prosciutto with credentials will be more costly than prosciutto without certificates.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why oxtails are so expensive, why Wagyu is so expensive, and why oysters are so expensive.

Conclusion

Prosciutto is a tasty ham that hails from Italy, and prosciutto tends to be expensive. Usually, a prosciutto’s price is because of how much time and effort it takes to create prosciutto.

Moreover, other factors can impact the price of prosciutto. For instance, additives, certifications, and import costs can easily make prosciutto more costly.

Author

  • Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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