After the United States’ announcement that imports of Bayonne ham will now be allowed, producers of this specialty from the Pyrenees are rubbing their hands in glee. On June 19, the companies Delpeyrat and Pierre Oteiza received the go ahead from American authorities to export their hams.
“It’s a historic decision!” exclaims Dominique Duprat, Assistant Manager of Delpeyrat, based in Pau. “This week we are going to salt the hams that will be exported to the American market. The first shipment will be ready in nine months,” he says. They will be delivered to American distributors in spring 2015. “They will be the same Bayonne hams found in France, but those exported to the U.S. market will meet specific tracking standards,” explains Stanislas Salembier, Director of Exports at Delpeyrat. He adds that these hams are also subject to an IGP – Indication Géographique Protégée (Protected Geographical Region).
After five years of lobbying, the producers of Bayonne were finally granted authorization to import. “The number of foreign meat products authorized by the USDA is limited. Everyone took action, including French and European authorities, in an effort to break down the barriers. We symbolize the return of French meat to the United States,” states Dominique Duprat.
And yet, a bit of searching reveals that “Bayonne ham” is already found in the U.S. Ariane Daguin sells it via her gourmet food company D’Artagnan based in New Jersey–it is produced in America based on the methods used in the southwest of France.
But how can she call the product “Bayonne ham?” The answer is rather clever. “We have a location in the town of Bayonne, New Jersey,” confides Daguin, a town that connects Newark and Jersey City. She maintains that she will stop selling the ham (which sells quite well) and switch to the “real” Bayonne ham as soon as it arrives in the U.S. “I believe that Bayonne ham has strong potential here, as long as French producers export high-quality products.”
According to Delpeyrat, Bayonne ham is less salty, less aggressive, and fruitier than its Italian and Spanish competitors, and it should have no problem finding a market in the land of the sandwich. The company plans to export about 50,000 hams to the U.S. per year. “In the first few years, exports will probably be a little less than this, as it will take time to develop the culture. In addition to retail sales, we are also greatly counting on the restaurant industry,” emphasizes Duprat. He points out that 500,000 Parma hams (Italy) are sold each year in the United States. “Taking 10% of the market seems reasonable, don’t you think?”