Expert Ham Sniffers in Spain Are Exhausted from Sniffing 800 Hams a Day

A dream job for some, a nightmare for others.

The Wall Street Journal has delivered the most delightful slice of news you're likely to see this week. Cinco Jotas, a 142-year old company in Spain, has a team of expert ham sniffers—and they are exhausted. The company specializes in traditional production methods of acorn-fed Iberian ham, and part of its quality-control methods is having trained workers smell the product before it can be sold.

The process is simple on its face: Poke the meat, take a sniff, determine if the meat is up to muster by seeking out specific scents that will indicate whether the ham meets the quality expectations of Cinco Jotas.

Obviously, it's a much more precise ordeal, especially because the whole evaluation is happening at warp speed. One sniffer (called a calador in Spanish) works year-round by himself, smelling around 200 hams a day. During the holiday season, however, he's sniffing 800 hams each day, alongside five seasonal sniffers. With each ham getting four sniffs, that is a total of 3,200 sniffs per day. 

Manuel Vega Domínguez, who has been doing quality control since 1998, told WSJ that all this inhaling is putting him "at the limit of human possibility." Still, Domínguez is not dissuaded. If duty calls, he's willing to try and get some more hams in.

"I will find a way to sniff 801," he told WSJ. "Perhaps 802 is possible."

The company posted a video of the ham sniffing process to its Facebook page back in September. Watch below to get a behind-the-scenes look at what might be one of the most unique jobs in the world.

For those of you reading this delightful story and thinking "how can I get my hands on one of the quality hams?" here is some additional great news: The hams are available for purchase on Cinco Jotas' US website. But all the expertise, care, and time in creating these Iberian hams don't come cheap; prepare to shell out as much as $1,399 for a 14- to 15-pound bone-in ham. On a tighter budget? You can get three ounces of sliced ham for $32.50.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.